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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: October 20, 2003
Volume 39, Number 7

Responsible computer use can help prevent virus, worm attacks

By Laurie Mellas Ramirez

Encrypted email required
by Oct. 27

Beginning Monday, Oct. 27, unencrypted logins to CIRT email servers will be denied. This is one part of increased security methods that CIRT is implementing to keep UNM online information and services confidential and reliable. A CIRT Web page (www.unm.edu/cirt/encryption) has more information about specific email software and how to enable your software for a secure log in.

Scheduled power outage
for CIRT

A scheduled power outage is set at CIRT for Saturday, Oct. 25, beginning at 7 a.m. The outage is required to upgrade a transformer that distributes power to CIRT. However, network services will be available on campus and by remote access. UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) units will provide power for computing services during the outage. The CIRT Computer Pod will close at midnight, Friday, Oct. 24 and remain closed all day Oct. 25. The building will be locked during the outage.

The advent of technology helped UNM employees and students better communicate across campus and around the world. But because university computer users share network access vunerable to attacks by worms and viruses, users also share responsibility to protect equipment.

UNM's Computer Information Resources and Technology (CIRT) offers critical support in a variety of ways.

Since late summer, some Windows users (with NT, 2000 and XP systems) connected to the UNM network have been vulnerable to the W32Blaster.worm and Sobig.F Worm and several other variants.

Like doctors dealing with epidemics, CIRT staff organized to respond. Technicians headed across campus to disconnect compromised computers and stem the spread of infection. In some cases, entire buildings had to be disconnected from the network until infected computers were isolated and bugs removed.

For several weeks staff cleaned up operating systems and shared information with users about current “patches and fixes,” said Jeff Gassaway, security administrator and technical support analyst.

The CIRT Support Center received a record number of calls.

“It was a big human resource issue. We had to make diagnoses, make time for educational efforts and create hundreds of CDs with removals tools,” Gassaway said.

“The network was slow or intermittant in some places for a few days in August. There were people who lost everything [on hard drives]. That was the extreme,” said Scott Parker, technical support analyst.

When classes started in August, about 1,500 dorm and Student Residence Center users clamored onto the network. Nearly 80 percent signed on unprotected. On unarmed systems a worm or virus can enter in little more than 20 seconds.

“During the 2003 spring semester we had to hunt down maybe four or five computers a week to disconnect. The first week of fall semester it was 40 or 50 a day,” Parker said.

During the next few weeks, CIRT will begin using a new network tool, NetReg www.netreg.org, to aid in the ongoing virus battle. The tool will allow CIRT to register computers for the sole purpose of checking for vulnerabilities.

“This is not big brother. If the system responds in a certain way we will know it’s patched and then you can register,” said Matt Carter, technical support analyst.

Go to www.unm.edu/cirt/virus.html for information on antivirus software. As well, Internet “firewalls,” can be installed to offer additional security and are available at the UNM Bookstore.

Windows users should check the Microsoft site regularly for updates. For important news on the UNM network, subscribe to the CIRT (email) mailing list “sysinfo-I” at www.unm.edu/cirt/sysinfo.

For more information, contact the CIRT Support Center, 277-4848.