E-mail attachments spread viruses through WebMail

“Hi!! =)” Recognize this from your inbox? Whatever you do, don’t download the attachment that comes with it. The College has been the victim of a rash of virus e-mails with subject headings such as this, which appear to be from someone you know, or with whom you have class.

The e-mails washing over the College’s WebMail system usually have body text that include phrases such as, “Argh, i don’t like the plaintext :)” and contain things that bill themselves as passwords, with numbers such as 15302.

The attachments to the virus e-mails contain zip files, which will infect a student’s computer if downloaded.

“The TCNJ e-mail viruses are starting to piss me off,” Chris Eads, junior computer science major said. “The first time one was sent to me it was someone I knew at least. Then I started getting them from random people, but people were getting them from me.”

“Honestly I think the thing spoofs the e-mail addresses,” he said, “but it’s weird to get a bunch from acquaintances exclusively for a while.”

“I got one from my friend,” Daphride Exum?, freshman psychology major, said. “But I asked her about it and she said she didn’t send me anything. I also got four more from other people, but I just deleted them.”

However, not all students deleted these e-mails as soon as they appeared. Jackie Kotler, sophomore early childhood education/Spanish major said she received a phony e-mail that appeared to be from Information Technology (IT).

“I am not that savvy with computer things like that, so I wanted to be sure that I didn’t have the virus,” she said. “I thought it was something to prevent against a virus.”

Craig Blaha, associate director of Information Policy, Security and Web Development, said that virus alerts sent out by IT would not have an attachment.

“We don’t send attachments and Microsoft doesn’t send attachments,” he said.

Even campus organizations’ e-mail boxes are susceptible. According to Jeremy Grey, secretary of the Gay Student Union at Trenton State (GUTS), the latest (virus e-mail in the GUTS account) is from All College Theater.

“The bad thing is that people who don’t go to TCNJ don’t understand that we don’t send out e-mails intentionally,” Grey said. “GUTS just got an e-mail from a bookstore telling us that they didn’t receive our e-mail because their virus checker reported that it had a virus.”

According to Blaha, the most important thing is that if computers are infected, students should tell the Help Desk. IT tracks problems through the Help Desk.

He said by finding out about these e-mails, IT can find out what the virus is and what can be done to block it from getting on campus, or how to stop it from being passed around on campus.

IT recently sent out an e-mail that said it is “currently in the process of denying network access to infected machines and notifying the owners that their access will be turned back on when they can prove they have cleaned their machines.”

Mollie Seiferas, freshman deaf education major, said that several people she knows have been notified.

“I know people who got phone calls from IT saying that Res.net had discovered strange activity on their computers and they gave a list of things to do.”

“They said to go to the self-help area of the IT Web site (tcnj.edu/~helpdesk/selfhelp.html) and remove the virus,” she said. “Then (the students with infected computers) would either have to get back to IT afterwards and show their computer was normal or IT would contact them in a few days.”

One of the most common viruses is the bagel virus. Blaha said the virus, which is actually a worm, has many different versions. There are already at least 17 known versions.

“The way we block it is, if we know what the subject line is, block it or the attachment,” Blaha said. “So unless we know where it’s coming from or what it looks like, we can’t block it.”

So far, IT hasn’t seen the bagel virus do anything malicious besides sending itself out to others. It still could, however, if a computer is infected with it. If a virus scan is updated it should catch it, though.

“I think the most important thing for everyone to do is get anti-virus software and update it,” Blaha said. “Update it daily, or at least every week. E-mail is scanned before it reaches your computer screen, however. If it has a known virus, it doesn’t get delivered.”

The IT e-mail also said that next semester, the College will require anti-virus software to be installed and maintained on every computer connected to the network. Blaha said updates to the software would also be available at no cost.