University Information Services began upgrading Georgetown’s defenses against three computer viruses over the past three weeks, according to Beth Ann Bergsmark, director of academic and information technology services for UIS.

“This is different than any other year we’ve seen because we have all three viruses attacking at the same time,” Bergsmark said.

The SoBig virus is sent via e-mail and attaches a device that enables the new host to send out more e-mails with the virus to other vulnerable computers. The other two viruses, Welchia and Blaster, are “worms” that spread from one computer to another without e-mail delivery.

Bergsmark estimated that “hundreds” of computers had been attacked by the Blaster worm, whereas casualties from the other two viruses were far fewer, with two to three dozen affected computers.

In order to prevent the spread of the SoBig virus, UIS temporarily rerouted e-mails over 90 kilobytes until technicians could install a program that strips e-mails that transmit the virus. Users will find an e-mail in their inbox telling them that the message has been stripped and Bergsmark said that UIS hopes to find a way to “silently drop these messages” so that they will not clog e-mail accounts.

UIS has blocked the Microsoft port that is used to spread the Blaster and Welchia worms. The block does not affect Internet access or e-mail traffic.

“We can block traffic between Village C and Harbin to minimize the spread of the worms,” she said.

UIS plans another block in traffic between residence hall servers and outside Internet users, so that someone from outside the university cannot make a connection to on-campus computers to attack the network with a virus.

“We’re making it so that we aren’t blind to the world, we just won’t be vulnerable,” Bergsmark said.

Bergsmark said UIS remains concerned about student complacency in dealing with computer viruses.

“No matter what we do, we cannot protect every person from getting a virus,” she said. “We are worried that students will read the e-mails from UIS and think that they’re safe and don’t have to do anything.”

Bergsmark said that although the university’s computer system suffered considerably from the virus attacks, other universities and organizations have sustained greater damage from the viruses. Stanford University had about 1,800 computers hit and Princeton Univeristy had about 1,500 affected. Businesses, including Air Canada and Amtrak, were forced to shut down or limit their services as a result of the attack.

UIS continues to warn students not to hook their computer into the network if they have not loaded the patch for the Blaster virus onto their computer. Without the patch, computer users are at high risk to receive the Blaster virus.

To prevent students from downloading the patch from the icrosoft website, which puts students at high risk for receiving the virus, UIS has provided a free CD containing the virus patch and various anti-virus programs during housing check-in.

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