serious e-mail outage lasting over eight hours and affecting all GUMail e-mail addresses from 4 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday.

In a broadcast e-mail sent to the university community Wednesday afternoon, Beth Ann Bergsmark, director of Academic and Information Technology Services for University Information Services, blamed the failure of an air-conditioning unit in Poulton Hall for the outage.

“As the temperature began to rise in the room, we took the GUMail service off-line to protect against damage to the disk drives,” she said.

According to Bergsmark, if the problem had not been caught in time, data could have been irreplaceably damaged.

The damage could have gradually corrupted data over a period of months or even years without being immediately apparent.

“The air-conditioning unit broke and high temperatures can degrade components so that’s why we took the e-mail service off-line,” Bergsmark said. “There’s absolutely no danger at this point.”

A replacement part for the air-conditioning system arrived Wednesday morning. This should permanently fix the problem.

Some students expressed anger when they could not retrieve important e-mails Tuesday.

“I couldn’t check my e-mail and I was waiting to get something really important,” Raphaella Poteau (COL ’07) said. “I was very annoyed and frustrated.”

University technology systems have been plagued by a number of problems over the course of the school year.

Major virus attacks beginning in the summer forced UIS to proactively disconnect computers with viruses from the university network until the computers were cleaned.

The flood of viruses and spam has not stopped since that time and continues to be a major strain on the network.

“Our mail system is scaled to handle about 250,000 messages per day,” Bergsmark said. “But now we’re starting to experience huge bursts of spam and there are many viruses.”

To help combat constant viruses, UIS is now removing suspicious e-mail attachments from messages. Users must go through a special retrieval process if they believe the attachments are legitimate.

Other universities have implemented similar policies to reduce illegitimate e-mail and some actively filter out e-mail identified as spam.

And viruses and spam are not the only problems UIS must deal with. Hackers have begun attacking university networks around the nation.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that “hackers have infiltrated powerful supercomputers at colleges, universities, and research institutions in recent weeks.” More than 20 institutions have been attacked, according to the Post.

Although Bergsmark said Georgetown was not one of the affected universities, hackers have attempted to infiltrate the network in the past and this issue remains a top priority.

UIS recommends students follow basic procedures to secure their computer data including updating anti-virus software on a daily basis, performing system updates released by software providers, being careful when downloading software and creating strong passwords.

These simple measures can go a long way toward providing technological security for the entire university community, Bergsmark said.

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