Service attacks interrupt Internet connections

Many students have recently been complaining about the lack of service when trying to access the Internet and other resources on the network.

For some time now, students have been struggling to use the Internet, finding it often will either shut down unexpectedly or refuse to start up altogether.

“At random times our Internet connection just gets interrupted,” Daphride Exum?, freshman psychology major, said.

According to Craig Blaha, associate director of Information Policy, Security and Web Development, the problem stems from a virus that has infected many campus machines.

The overall attacks are called denial of service attacks. The technical definition of this is an incident in which the user of a network is deprived of service normally provided on a network. The attack usually functions as a loss of a particular service, such as e-mail.

“These attacks are sporadic and consume our available bandwidth, making it difficult or impossible to access the Internet,” he said. The causes of the viruses seem to be illegal software and programs downloaded onto student computers, as well as certain Web sites that contain attachments downloaded from e-mail sources.

Blaha said that at first, the infections caused a great deal of traffic on the network, which overwhelmed software. Once the infected software was removed, it became obvious that the machines were still causing problems with the Internet.

Although there are explanations for the Internet troubles around campus, students worry about how their schoolwork will be affected.

“If the Internet is not going to work, the school shouldn’t rely on it as its main way to communicate with students,” Anne Giordano, freshman fine arts major,

said. “Student Online Courseware System (SOCS), The Electronic Student Services (TESS), e-mail, everything vital involves the Internet.”

Students have also attempted to call Information Technology (IT) to try and find ways of fixing their computers.

“The message for Information Technology’s voicemail asks if you’re a professor or student. Then they proceed to tell you about a Web site that they have if you need help on something,” Exum? said. “But the problem is that if you have no Internet, the Web site doesn’t help you.”

At this point, infected machines are being removed from the server. However, indications of an infected machine do not come immediately and it therefore takes time for IT to learn of the different problems.

An e-mail from IT was sent to students, explaining the situation with the computers. According to the e-mail, computers with infections will be denied access to the network and will not be allowed back on until students can prove that the machines have been cleaned.

The e-mail also says that the College will require all students to install anti-virus software on their computers next year in order to access the network. It will be downloaded as part of the application and will be completely free.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect students to purchase anti-virus software because it’s something that will protect their computers as well as the network,” Giordano said. “But if they’re going to offer a program for free, that’s even better.”

According to Blaha, the majority of infected computers have been found in Travers and Wolfe Halls. Over 50 students have been contacted about viruses and, as of now, they have been removed. The computers that originally had the problems have been fixed as well.

Despite these repairs, new computers are continuously found infected with the viruses.

Blaha said there are several ways to protect the system, including installing anti-virus software, avoiding questionable Web sites which may download “spyware” (technology to gather information about a person or an organization without them knowing), not opening attachments from unknown sources and not downloading or sharing illegal files or software.

“Viruses and worms are an ongoing reality, and the important thing to point out is the network is a collective resource,” Blaha said.