The Campus Chronicle
Vol. XVI, Issue 6
for the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts
Oct. 6, 2000

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Computer virus appears on campus

by Sarah R. Buchholz, Chronicle staff

A computer virus that originated in China was discovered in more than 30 campus computers two week ago, according to Office of Information Technology (OIT) network operations manager Scott Conti. Conti and Dan Blanchard, director of Networking Systems and Services at OIT, are advising staff to install or update the McAffee virus protection software, available on OIT's Web site (www.oit.umass.edu/download) or from its Help Desk.

     "The virus [itself] does not appear to be destructive to the computer," Conti said. "It's looking for other vulnerable computers, infecting them, and sending that information back, presumably to the person who launched it. That person now knows that that computer is vulnerable and can tell other people that it's vulnerable."

     What the virus tells the recipients is that they can access any information on the infected computer, Conti said.

     "It's like [a thief] knowing your house is unlocked," he said.

     "The virus is spreading around campus," Blanchard said. "Our suspicion right now is that it's been spreading through machines that have open shares or open file systems. These machines have a portion of their local file space that is open to the world for reading and writing. So the virus was installed on one of these and has been spreading around."

     "The FBI is currently aware of over 25,000 affected computers around the country," Conti said. "We've also been getting reports of a subseven trojan. A trojan horse program allows somebody to remotely control over any operation on the computer, including being able to erase the hard drive. And that program is also detectable by an anti-virus program."

     "This is a fairly common occurrence," Blanchard said, "and that's scary stuff. We spend an inordinate amount of our time keeping ahead of hackers."

     "People should be concerned with computer security," Conti said. "Every Windows 95/98 computer on campus should have an updated virus scanner installed and running."

 
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