Document Name: NCSA Network Security Policy

Version: 2.0

Accountable: Adam Slagell

Authors: Adam Slagell, Joerg Heintz, & Mike Dopheide

Approved: <insert date>



NCSA logically divides its network into several different trust zones. Traffic between these zones is monitored by a Network Intrusion Detection System (NIDS), but traffic within a single zone may not be visible to the NIDS. Therefore, systems within a single zone must be trusted and hence hardened to the same level.

These zones can vary significantly in how they are trusted: from networks trusted little more than the general Internet to networks that require stringent vetting and auditing. Most networks are public, but some are very isolated and not even routed. The common requirements across all zones are only that systems follow University security policies and that the Security and Networking teams can quickly identify the location and responsible party for all hosts on our networks.


Policy Application

For the purposes of this document, production systems are defined as any system, to include allocated systems, intended to provide reliable computational and/or data services to a networked constituency. These systems include not only “customer facing” hosts, such as web servers, file servers, login nodes, etc., but also the infrastructure required to support these systems, such as backend database servers, backup and storage systems, authentication servers, etc.

NCSA IT Operations Board

The leaders of ADS (Advanced Digital Services), ITS (Information Technology Systems), and Security are responsible for application of this policy. These three groups are the service providers of infrastructure at NCSA and meet regularly to discuss security issues and strategy for providing better services.


The Security Team is responsible to ensure regular auditing of this policy and automates this when possible. However, responsible does not always mean executing every audit on their own. This is a group endeavor among all the NCSA service providers and requires coordination and cooperation between ADS, ITS and Security.


Violations of this policy may result in immediate disconnection of systems by the Security Team, especially in critical and sensitive zones. Failure to obtain prior approval for installations based on zone policies or attempts to circumvent these policies will be reported to senior management at the NCSA.

Exceptions Process

For any rule or policy, exceptions may be needed. The Security Office will review requests for exceptions. Decisions will be made by the Security Office after appropriate consultation with ADS and ITS leadership. Appeals to decisions can be made to the Director's Office.

Policy Maintenance

The Security Office will review this policy annually with the leadership of ADS and ITS to see if changes are needed. It will also be updated as needed for new network environments that are needed.

NCSA Network Zones

The following zones and their accompanied policies are described logically as specific subnets are subject to change.

High Performance Datacenter (HPDC) Zone


This is the zone for production systems the data center and consists of most machines in 2020 NPCF. It includes both public and private networks.

Types of Systems:

Systems requiring high availability, physical security and high performance networking are hosted here. This includes not just HPCs, but core storage, security, networking equipment, and more. These systems are built in a firewalled subzone until fully vetted by the security team, which is responsible for regular auditing of systems against the security requirements below.

Security Requirements:


All external links into and out of this zone are monitored by the network IDS. New hosts that appear on this network but have not been vetted may be automatically or manually blocked at the border gateway until investigated and vetted. Network traffic entirely within this zone is unmonitored by the IDS, but netflows are collected.

Zone 1b: Installation


This defines a type of system-specific zone for systems that are physically located on the floor in 2020 NPCF, but which have not yet met all of the security requirements to be part of the High Performance DC Zone. In most cases, router ACLs would be sufficient for protecting these systems while they are brought online and secured before being moved into Zone 1. These connections will be limited to the extent than they can be monitored via temporary taps or SPAN ports. 

Types of Systems:

Systems in this zone may be in the process of initial configuration, but have reached the point of requiring network access to download updates and additional software. As always, to be physically located in the NPCF, systems must be approved by the NPCF RAF Space Committee.

Security Requirements:

As the purpose of this zone is to provide network access to systems as they are being configured, it's unrealistic to expect them to have a full suite of security tools already configured and working. Packet filtering will allow minimal incoming services to help protect systems that may come with vulnerable software out of the box. These systems must:

Zone 2: Testing


NPCF room 2016 is for testing and installing new systems and will reside behind a 1G Firewalled network link. Systems requiring more than 1G bandwidth, but unable to meet a sufficient level of system security to be moved to the High Performance Datacenter zone must provide and connect to the network through a firewall, which must be vetted by security. (In some cases, router ACLs or a NAT could be deemed sufficient.) The firewall(s) will limit traffic both in and out of the test zone and traffic from this network will be monitored. Requests for changes to any firewall configurations should be directed to networking and coordinated with the Security Team.

Types of Systems:

Systems in this zone may be in the process of initial configuration or semi-permanent test systems.

Security Requirements:

Systems in this zone have the same requirements as those in Zone 1b.

Zone 3a: NCSA Building


The NCSA Building houses the majority of NCSA staff, but also has several small server rooms. With staff and guests moving systems in and out, the networks within this zone are not highly trusted.

It is the goal of the Security Team to eventually be able to separate the NCSA Building into several sub-zones based on logically or physically separate networks. At this time those changes are not feasible and are beyond the scope of this document.

Types of Systems:

A large variety of systems includes staff laptops, workstations, test systems, and may include machines providing production services that, for whatever reason, do not merit or require placement in the NPCF data center.

Security Requirements:

Traffic within this zone should be regarded with suspicion as these networks are only nominally more trusted than general Internet traffic. As a result, traffic between this zone and the others will be monitored. The Security Team provides assistance with hardening hosts and can provide additional monitoring if requested.

Zone 3b: NPCF Offices


The NPCF building houses several offices whose traffic should be handled separately from that of the main datacenter zone. Command Center systems that are not dedicated CnC systems for Zone 1 machines, i.e., networked only to internal subnets, will be treated as members of Zone 3b.

Security Requirements

NPCF Office systems share the same security requirements as NCSA Building systems (Zone 3a) but are a separate sub zone because they will be physically monitored at separate points.

Zone 4a: Wireless


NCSA Wireless connectivity is available in all of our buildings (ACB, NCSA & NPCF). For campus wireless networks, all traffic is tunneled outside the NCSA and treated as external traffic. For this reason, they do not fall under any NCSA zone and are not explicitly addressed.

There are both NCSA and University provided wireless networks in the NCSA and the NPCF buildings. These wireless networks are split into multiple logical zones. These networks all have different authentication mechanisms, rules about guest accounts and may or may not utilize link-level encryption. The security requirement for NCSA wireless networks (those that are managed by NCSA or provide NCSA IP addresses) is simply that an adversary gains no additional benefit by physically locating themselves within wireless range of NCSA facilities. For example, by using the strong encryption and authentication technologies of WPA2 or VPNs, it can be reasonably assumed that an attacker already needs a valid Kerberos credential which would give them access to this zone through the VPN anyway.

It is strongly suggested that the UIUC-Guest network be made available in NCSA and NPCF for the use of the majority of visitors and guests. It is also strongly desired that we deprecate the NCSA-Portal network as it potentially gives adversaries additional advantages of proximity.

Types of Systems:

Generally, these systems will be laptops, tablets, and/or smart phones owned by NCSA employees or guests.

Security Requirements:

Guest laptops are likely candidates for victimization by malicious network traffic, email/web client attacks or viruses. Therefore, the preferred way for guests to obtain Internet access is through the EDURoam, UIUC Public Wifi (where available) or by getting a guest account on UIUCNet, which has good coverage all over campus. These networks are run by CITES and traffic is tunneled outside the NCSA network. Therefore, guest systems would not logically be a part of the NCSA network and would be treated as external Internet traffic.

Requirements that apply to ALL wireless networks in NCSA buildings (whether operated by NCSA or CITES) are:

Zone 4b: VPN


NCSA offers a VPN service for employees working remotely.

Security Requirements

Systems connected to the NCSA VPN networks are treated as external systems with monitoring on the NCSA side of the VPN tunnel.

Zone 5: Blue Waters Management VLANs

Sanitized from this copy

Zone 6: Blue Waters Service VLANs
Sanitized from this copy

Zone 7: Physical Security Systems


This is an island zone only for the NPCF physical security systems.

Types of Systems:

All NPCF physical security systems, and only those systems, are part of this zone.  This includes the camera DVRs, the badge readers, the iris scanners, the ACMS workstations (for badging, control and enrollment), and the ACMS database server.

Security Requirements:

It should be noted that there will hopefully be a way for alerts to be passed out of this network in the future, but this connection should be unidirectional.

Zone: Island / PSP (Private Sector Program)


This defines a type of zone rather than a specific zone itself. An Island zone has its own, unmonitored external bandwidth either provided by a 3rd party or too large to be monitored by the border NIDS. The island may have an additional, smaller bandwidth connection directly into NPCF zones that will be monitored with the NIDS and treated as external traffic This includes site-to-site VPN traffic traversing NCSA's external links.  This traffic must not be routed inside the NCSA network without also being monitored by a NIDS, and it will be trusted no more than other Internet traffic.

Types of Systems:

These are systems (typically servers) for special projects or private sector partners that bring in their own systems to physically reside in NPCF, but that also require their own external connectivity. Other large systems that have their own pipes, but do not wish to pay for monitoring, can opt for an island zone.

Security Requirements: