Aug 242005
 
Authors: Vimal Patel

A computer virus that decreased network speed and blocked faculty from accessing their accounts has sent college officials scrambling to fix the campus-wide infection since Friday.

The virus is now mostly under control, said Kevin Nolan , internet technology specialist.

"We're finally starting to get the upper hand," Nolan said.

Information Technology officials said the virus mainly affected professors and faculty and that students escaped relatively unscathed.

"It's causing a lot of work for us," said Kelly Ippolito , network technician at the College of Liberal Arts. "The virus was trying to hack into passwords."

The worm infected about 350 of the approximately 20,000 computers on campus, said Scott Baily, associate director of Academic Computing and Network Services.

A worm is a program that's designed to move from computer to computer and is now the most common type of virus.

College officials believe the virus to be a variant of Zotob, a worm that has recently garnered attention by pestering several major news organizations, including CNN, ABC and the New York Times.

The worm primarily targets Windows-based computers. At CSU, the virus has mostly infected computers with Windows 2000, Nolan said.

Access to some accounts was blocked because the virus attempted to hack into accounts by trying different passwords – "brute force login attempts" – and the CSU computer system temporarily blocks access to accounts if users try to log on unsuccessfully six times.

"We worked over the weekend to get it under control," said David Thilmany, IT director at the College of Liberal Arts.

Those who spread computer viruses are tough to track down, he added.

"In my experience, since I've been here, we haven't caught anyone," said Thilmany , who has been at CSU for about a year. "It's a pretty major problem."

Baily echoed Thilmany's sentiments.

"The nature of this activity makes it very difficult (to track down perpetrators)," Baily added.

However, Nolan said the best guess at this point is that the virus was brought onto campus inadvertently, probably on a laptop computer from one of the thousands of new students flooding the campus.

There were about three or four viruses in the fall 2004 semester, Thilmany said, adding that the spring semester was "pretty quiet."

ACNS officials frequently post virus updates on their Web site at www.acns.colostate.edu. The site contains instructions on how to help with the automated cleanup of the worm.

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