Security Solution Sandbags Worms in Student Computers

Posted: October 5, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Fran Rensbarger

This fall, determined to prevent a recurrence of last year’s virulent worm infections introduced by some resident students when they plugged their computers into the university’s network, the Information Technology Unit (ITU) put residents’ machines in a “sandbox.” The sandbox—an environment that restricts access to a computer’s resources—is the Mason Update and Scanning Tool (MUST) for Safety, a new infection-resistant, automated instruction set that most resident students ran on their computers when they arrived. It was developed by ITU’s Technology Systems Division (TSD) and piloted during the summer sessions.

“The back-to-school efforts to make sure that the residence hall computer network (Res.Net) functions well have been extraordinarily successful,” says Joy R. Hughes, vice president for information technology and CIO. “It has been wonderful to see the collaboration between ITU and the Office of Housing and Residence Life—all focused on making the students’ experience with using their computers on the Res.Net a good one.” And, she adds, “We’re getting kudos from students whose machines had viruses and worms that they didn’t know about.”

More than 3,400 resident students’ computers are registered and have had the current antivirus software with latest virus definitions installed. Of those computers, about 90 were automatically cleaned of various worms and another 200 were denied access because they either had a worm or another malicious program that did not allow Symantec AntiVirus to run, says Dan Veloce, TSD network engineer. The Get Wired team—assistants from the Division of Instructional and Technology Support Services—took care of the problem computers. “There were no major glitches with the system,” he adds.

“It seems that we haven’t had nearly as bad a time as we did this time last year, but we must always remain vigilant,” Veloce says. “Hopefully, the automatic patching and antivirus software will continue to pay dividends as we move forward into the semester. Since we do not use customized solutions for automatic software patching and updating, the new configuration will not cause any technical issues for students when they leave the university at year’s end.”

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