Information Technology (IT) recently released information via voicemail and e-mail informing students, faculty and administrators about virus problems affecting computer and network performance on campus.
IT is currently working with McAfee, an antivirus software provider, to resolve the problem.The problem arose when the antivirus software was unable to terminate the virus, Craig Blaha, associate director of Information Policy, Security and Web Design, said.
Normally, the software blocks the virus, enabling the machine to recognize it and terminate it before the system is damaged. According to Blaha, McAfee technicians have inspected numerous computers across campus to look for occurrences such as tampering with registry keys, alteration of files, generated pop-ups or activity such as the downloading of other viruses, which Blaha indicates as part of the problem.
“There has been progress made,” he said.
He called the communication between the College and McAfee personnel a “telephone game,” explaining how they have already written some definitions intended to help identify and alleviate the problems based on their diagnoses and are trying to determine which are correct.
According to Blaha, the network was initially affected by the viruses but network performance is no longer attributed to this problem. By closing Port 445, which refers to an access point from the network to the Internet, IT was able to fix the network performance problems experienced when the viruses first attacked the system.
However, Blaha said many students’ computers are still infected and urges students to use one of several free programs available which can help clean out unwanted spyware from their computers. Two resources Blaha suggested were Web sites available to students: lavasoftusa.com and safer-networking.org/en/download/index.html.
“Often people attribute slow Internet speed to the network when their systems are actually infected with spyware or viruses,” he said.
Blaha said that it has not been determined for sure how this problem initially occurred. He referred to the problem on campus as malware, or malicious software, which the Antivirus Defense-In-Depth Guide refers to as viruses, worms and Trojan horses that intentionally perform malicious tasks on a computer system.
IT determined that nothing indicates that the source of the problem was e-mail-related.
The office did, however, issue the usual warnings not to open attachments or even unexpected e-mails from people you know. Also, the office reinforces the importance of students keeping their antivirus software updated to help protect personal computers.
Additionally, free McAfee VirusScan software is available to all students as a result of the new antivirus policy. According to the Residential Network Services Web site, “in order to gain Internet access, students are required to agree to the new antivirus policy.”
This policy was created to try and alleviate virus-related problems that occurred last year. According to Blaha, antivirus software and virus scans on campus computers have been kept current.
Updating definitions is scheduled automatically on all College-owned desktops and centrally on the College’s e-mail server.
Over 200 administrative machines were reported as infected to the College’s help desk. Though this is less than 10 percent of the academic and administrative inventory, IT is working swiftly to clean up infected machines. Blaha said the situation is “better on the residential side,” with very few student complaints about activity.
IT urges the campus community to contact the Help Desk with any problems that occur on College-owned and personal computers so the incidents can be attended to and documented.
“We’re doing everything we can to try and figure this out,” Blaha said.