Classroom GSM Configuration Monitoring and Remediation
Shawn Zwach Dakota State University
Kyle Cronin Dakota State University
Abstract Many academic institutions were charged with a move to online at the beginning of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and for that reason, certain adjustments had to be made to their programs. Dakota State University has offered most of our programs both on campus and entirely online for several years. These programs include both an undergraduate and doctoral degree offering in cyber operations and as part of those programs, we must offer cellular and mobile communications course work to both our on-campus students and those attending from afar. Offering remote access to physical gear is not a new problem in academia, but this course in particular posed unique challenges. First, we needed to create a confined environment for the signals to emanate within. Second, we needed software defined radios and cell phones that students could access from a distance. Finally, we needed to mitigate risks of enabling certain functionality of the wireless networks and identify collisions in configurations among student participants.
The first two components are achieved by staging ESXi hosts for our campus lab environment within radio frequency shielded racks and placing all radios within. Our administrators for that environment then connect pairs of cell phones and radios to the virtual machines via USB passthrough for that environment. While students are assigned certain configuration parameters for the environment, sometimes mistakes are made. In this situation, troubleshooting can be impossible for the student if they cannot identify conflicting configurations, and quite difficult for the instructor who must log into individual nodes to see what configuration items may conflict within the confined wireless environment.
To resolve this final issue, and enforce certain configuration items, a simple agent was composed that performs two core tasks. The first task is monitoring for configuration changes in the database that is used for managing the GSM network and reporting those changes to an upstream monitor. The second task is terminating the system in the event a potentially risky change occurs. A consequence of sending the data to a central monitor is that the instructors can see all student configuration items from one pane and students can see potential conflicts when visiting the same site from their system. This is the first release of this software for our environment and we look forward to making it more resilient.