Last update: 3/20/2012 at 5:08 p.m.

The rising risk of computer viruses has technicians working to install anti-virus software and critical updates on thousands of computers on the ISU campus.

Early this fall, ISU’s computer system was infected by the Blaster worm that hit computers worldwide. While Blaster slowed e-mail, the Nachia virus infected the system and destroyed files. The affected files were responsible for enabling computers in the ISU network to communicate with each other. The criminally-originated viruses silenced the network and caused a temporary shutdown until files were reloaded from backups later that day.

“It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but not as good either,” said Randy Gaines, director of ISU’s Department of Computing and Communications.

The shutdown brought home the threat of computer viruses and their destructive potential. That realization is propelling the issue of computer security to the top of the department’s agenda. That means more work for the department, along with usual fall concerns of improving academic Web registration and upgrading ISU’S Web site, Gaines said.

“It has always been a concern, now it’s our top priority,” Gaines said. “The really scary thing is that this could become a way of life.”

ISU’s first line defense against computer viruses is Mcafee anti-virus software. It protects against all known computer viruses and sends updates via e-mail when new ones are discovered. The software is installed on all networked computers on campus; however hundreds of campus computers outside the network are still vulnerable to infection without the software or the updates that identify new viruses and worms. The software is licensed by ISU at an annual cost between $20,000 and $30,000.

To fight the problem, the department has hired three additional student computer technicians to physically visit, check and install anti-virus software and critical updates on thousands of campus computers. It takes only two or three infected computers to cause an outbreak, so every computer must be checked, Gaines said.

Computing and Communications is not the only department reacting to this new way of life. Computer security is a high priority all over campus. A computer security committee, made up by systems administrators of several campus departments, will convene monthly throughout the remainder of the fall semester to assess the risks and determine solutions.

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