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Viruses affect Saint Mary’s network

Justin Tardiff | Friday, September 12, 2003

Computer viruses that have affected Saint Mary’s for the past two weeks are causing continued problems on campus, with many students unable to connect to the campus-wide computing network.

The three main viruses the College is trying to combat are the Nachi/Welchia Worm, the Blaster/Lovesan Virus and the SoBig Virus. These work by exploiting vulnerabilities in Windows computers and spread by mass e-mailing themselves to every e-mail address they can find in users’ files. Macintosh computers are not affected by these viruses.

Although these viruses affected campus in a limited capacity for much of the summer, they spread quickly with the return of students this fall.

“When the students returned with a host of unpatched Windows computers, ResNet was flooded with virus broadcasts,” said Keith Fowlkes, Saint Mary’s director of Information Technology.

Saint Mary’s is not the only college affected by these viruses.

Colleges and universities across the country have been swamped with network problems from the computer viruses.

Since they provide merely a vehicle for computers to connect to the Internet on campus, they exert little or no control over what is on the machines themselves.

“Our brief outage is one of the shortest I’ve seen across the nation,” said Fowlkes. “Literally thousands of colleges and universities experienced long outages and network problems.”

Yesterday, Microsoft announced that there are serious security flaws in their Windows XP and Windows 2000 software.

The new flaws, they said, have the potential to lead to other viruses, similar to the ones already infecting computers.

Information Technology and ResNet are asking all students who are running Windows XP, Windows 2000 or Windows NT to update their virus protection with the patch that Microsoft released yesterday. Virus protection software is being provided free of charge to all Saint Mary’s students.

“All the students are currently unable to connect to their network drives from ResNet,” said Fowlkes. “Students must install and run virus protection software before they can connect to their network drives.”

Beginning next week, Information Technology will start blocking individual Windows computers that have not been cleaned.

Access will be restricted to all network access including Internet, e-mail and network drives.

“If we can get students to cooperate in updating Windows and disinfecting their computers from viruses, we should be able to get things back to normal soon,” said Fowlkes.