Classic Signals: Virus infects student laptops

Every week, Features Editor Alyssa Gautieri hits the archives and finds old Signals that relate to current College topics and top stories.

Students were left with infected laptops after connecting to the College’s network. (Alyssa Gautieri / Features Editor)

Students panicked, teacher’s worried and staff scrambled to get the WI-FI working after it spontaneously stopped connecting on Thursday, Feb. 2. With the entire College’s WI-FI down, all laptops, tablets and cellphones were left useless. While faculty and students were not pleased by the failing WI-FI, this technological issue was not catastrophic. In 2004, the College faced a much larger technical issue. During Welcome Week of 2004, many students were left with infected laptops after the IT department discovered the College’s network had a virus.

When students first moved back to the College a few weeks ago, they had a lot of things to worry about. Ways to set up their room or getting their books together for classes were among them.

The last thing on anyone’s mind was protecting his or her computer while plugging back into the College’s network. However, within a few hours of move-in, most students found themselves struggling to keep their computers up and running.

As most students came to realize, their computer problems were due to a stream of viruses and worms that hit the College’s network before and during move-in.

New problems arise for computers each day with the development of viruses and worms. Unfortunately, these problems are spread through networks very easily.

According to the College’s Networking and Technical Services Web site, our network connects 31 campus buildings, including 12 residential dorms and 19 academic buildings. Residential Networking Services is responsible for connecting over 4,000 students to this campus backbone network.

Craig Blaha, associate director of Information Policy at the College, pointed out how vulnerable a network can be.

“A network is a shared resource, a few infected users can seriously affect the entire network,” he said.

Christina Rossi, a junior math and secondary education major found her computer giving her issues as soon as she plugged it into the network on move-in day.

“I started getting error messages right away and then my computer would start a countdown to shutdown. Two days later I found out I had a virus on my computer,” she said.

Many other students experienced the same or similar problems. And as convenient as it would be for Information Technology (IT) to wave their hands and make it all go away, they aren’t easy problems to fix.

According to Tom Kline, a Computer Information System specialist, controlling and protecting a network is tough job.

“The College’s IT department has a big job ahead of them,” Kline said.