Duke VPN – Revisited

By | July 23, 2021

 July 26, 2021

Treat each day as if it’s your last.  One day, you’ll be right.

VPNYou may have noticed that Duke Health users (including DUSON students, faculty and staff) have experienced some issues with the VPN recently.  This is probably due to the additional security requirements that have been placed on our network, requiring DUSON users to install new software and a requirement to change our Duke passwords.  We thought this would be a good time to give you an update on what has been happening and what to expect in the near future.  Here’s what you need to know …

But first, here’s our Tech Tip of the Week –


Need some IT assistance after-hours?

If you are having trouble accessing any course materials after-hours or on the weekends, just send us an email to SONIT-Support@duke.edu and briefly describe your problem, or call the IT Service Desk at (919) 684-9200 and follow the instructions.

We’re on-call 24×7 to ensure you can get your work completed on your schedule.

So, first things first.  Remind me what a VPN is …

Duke’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a software tool that does two things:

  • Encryption – Duke’s VPN creates a pipe from your computer to a server at Duke’s data center that encrypts all data that passes between your keyboard and Duke.  Everything you do online when connected to a VPN is private.  No one can see it – this is great for when you are working remotely, traveling, and/or are using a public WiFi (hotel, Panera’s, airport, etc.);
    • ALWAYS use VPN when connected to public WiFi.
  • Connection – When you connect via the VPN, you can access all Duke resources to which you have access, just as if you were on campus- from anywhere in the world where you can connect to the internet.  This includes your P: and S: drives and other Duke resources such as Medical Center library collections;

Our SON-IT staff has created this short Mediasite video detailing what you need to know about installing and connecting to the Duke Health VPN.

Why the problems with VPN and connecting to the network?

Recall back in the fall semester when Duke stopped allowing users to connect to social media sites while on the Duke network?  This was in response to a rash of ransomware attacks on educational institutions.  It was a temporary fix while Duke technology engineers developed an overall solution.

In the spring, Duke began rolling out several components and new policies that would better protect our network and your data.  Here’s the plan:

  • NAC – Network Access Control, or NAC ensures that devices connecting to the Duke Health network meet baseline security requirements.  In the event of a security compromise, NAC also helps to isolate the spread of infection and minimize damage, particularly to our most critical systems.  This was originally implemented for wired connections only (your desktop computer).  In May and June 2021, it was required for the VPN.
  • Password Change – In May, we started alerting users that Duke Health was requiring all users (faculty, staff and students) to change their passwords.  Our goal was to have all DUSON user passwords changed well before the enforcement date (week of July 12).  Most all users followed our instructions.  The ones that did not were no longer allowed access to the VPN.
  • ZScaler – SON-IT is working with Duke Health to test ZScaler, which is a 3rd step in the plan that, among other important security items, will once again allow users to access social media while connected to the Duke Health network.  So far, it’s testing well for Windows systems.  Our SON-IT staff found multiple issues with the Mac version that DHTS has been working to fix.  Once we complete our testing, SON-IT will be installing it on all Duke-owned machines.

What do I need to do?

  • If you haven’t changed your Duke password since early June when we notified DUSON users of the requirement, change your password.  Students, faculty and staff who have not changed their passwords will continue to see problems.
  • You may see some unfamiliar error messages or notifications regarding certificates, particularly when you are opening the VPN while certain applications are already open.  It’s annoying, but unfortunately, this is normal and expected at this time.  The solution is to either close the application in question or simply wait a few seconds and close the popup window.
  • While you probably haven’t heard of it yet, you’ll be hearing from us about ZScaler soon.  This will come out as an IT Alert and also be covered in the Monday Byte.  When you receive these notifications, please follow any directions carefully and completely.  You can avoid future issues by simply following our instructions within the timeframe we provide.

If you have any questions about any of these, please contact your IT Service Desk at (919)684-9200.

FAQs …

Lots of folks are using the VPN right now, so we will repeat our answers to frequently asked questions about the VPN.  If you’re not finding what you need, be sure to ask your IT Service Desk Pros.

  • Will VPN make my Zoom connection slower?
    • Yes, it probably will.  But this will only matter if you have a slow connection to start with – remember, you need at least 3MBPS upload and download speed to have a stable Zoom experience.  Anything less and you should stop your video.  If that doesn’t work, then try dialing in.
  • Will the VPN slow my system down?
    • It won’t slow your computer, but it will slow your internet connection.
      • SON-IT tested it – your network speed will be approximately 15% to 50% slower depending on your internet service provider (ISP).
  • Do I have to use the VPN to access Duke resources when I’m off-campus?
    • Yes.  It’s a secure way to work off-site, whether at home, on the road, on the beach, etc.
    • Use the VPN to access P:, S:, LearningSpace videos and Duke Heath Library resources
  • Do I have to use the VPN to access any of my course material in Sakai?
    • No.  You’ll only need the VPN if your instructor tells you that you need it.
  • Do I need VPN to access Duke’s Box or OneDrive?
    • No.  These are available without the VPN.
  • What if I’m using the Duke University network?  Do I need the Duke Health VPN?
    • Yes.  If you are using one of the campus networks (for example, at Krzyzewskiville or the Chapel), you’ll need to use the VPN to access your P: and S: drives, Learning Space videos and library resources.
  • I use a personal VPN (Tunnelbear, NordVPN, etc.).  Do I still need to use the Duke Health VPN?
    • If you want to access your P: and S: drives, LearningSpace videos or library resources while off-site, you will need to use the Duke Health VPN.  A personal VPN will not work for accessing Duke resources.
    • A personal VPN is a great idea for traveling or general surfing, though.  Highly recommended.
  • Is there any documentation about installing and connecting to the Duke Health VPN?
    • Sure –See the video (above) for a complete guide for installing and using the Duke Health VPN.
    • Or, just contact your IT Service Desk at SONIT-Support@Duke.edu or call (919) 684-9200.

Missing Our Campus?

This week’s Duke Photo of the Week is the Davison Building on Duke’s West Campus.

One thought on “Duke VPN – Revisited

  1. Will Alexander

    Great work! I appreciate the time you took to write about these issues, as they’ve affected a lot of people (inside and outside of the DUSON). I wish we could have gotten these kinds of answers from the original people responsible for making these changes but this really helps.


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