The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

November 15, 2009

UPJ investigating source of computer virus

JOHNSTOWN — Officials at UPJ say they are re-evaluating their computer defenses after their network fell victim to a virus attack last week.

They also are continuing their investigation into the source of the attack, which was first noticed early Tuesday.

At about 5 a.m., members of the information technology department noticed that something foreign on the network was consuming large amounts of bandwidth. In effect, the virus clogged the networks to such a degree that the flow of information on campus was reduced to a slow trickle.

“I really credit our IT staff for catching this as quickly as they did, because it really could have had serious consequences,” said Bob Knipple, Director of Alumni and Community Relations at UPJ.

Knipple said that without their quick reaction, the entire IT infrastructure on campus could have been brought down.

All computer labs on campus were closed before noon on Tuesday and several lab-based classes were canceled.

Most students reported no problems or lost data on their personal computers. These students said they had installed the Symantec antivirus software offered free by the IT department.

Some, such as freshman Ariel Halstead, whose computer wasn’t running any antivirus software at the time of the attack, complained of abysmally slow Internet speeds throughout the week.

Knipple said that no administrative systems on campus sustained any permanent damage, and there were no reports of lost or damaged data from any campus department.

The virus came at an unfortunate time for UPJ students, however, as registration for spring classes, a mostly electronic process, began in late October.

All members of the IT department declined to comment about the nature or classification of the virus. Symantec Corp. is in the process of updating the virus definitions and defenses for the campus servers, Knipple said.

He said the IT department will continue to investigate the origin of the attack, but that the virus didn’t necessarily originate on campus. Several servers and Web sites around the world reported similar attacks early last week.

While the IT staff swiftly flushed the virus out of the network, any remnants could have hidden within any machine connected to the network; all of them had to be removed.

Knipple said he feels the likelihood of something like this happening again is relatively low and is confident in the new network defenses being installed.

“I think (it’s) very safe,” he said.

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