Viruses, worms pose threat

Here is an article on computer viruses for which I was interviewed for the Spectator, the university student news paper.

Lindsey Giddens
Staff Writer

Nathan Justin / The Spectator — Ezra Freelove, assistant webmaster for Microcomputing and Network Services, explains viruses

Viruses are running rampant and are extremely contagious. But these viruses don’t attack your immune system–they attack your hard drive.

The term virus is used to describe viruses, worms and trojans. Viruses programs designed to use your computer to attack others can be malicious if they show up on your computer. Viruses that have been found locally have been NIMDA, SIRCAM, MAGISTR and ETHAN, a virus that affects Word files.

Usually these viruses are picked up through e-mails, downloads, infected floppy disks and hacking. They can cause minor problems such as a few system glitches or can be harmful enough to reformat your hard drive, overwrite the hard drive boot sector, delete files or render computers inoperable.

According to Ezra Freelove, assistant webmaster for Microcomputing and Network Services, viruses have not been a major problem for VSU.

All of the approximately 2600 computers on campus have Officescan software installed.

“It scans the file and looks for patterns Trend has provided,” Freelove said. “It tries to clean the file, but if it is not cleanable, it quarantines the file or deletes it.”

Officescan is regularly updated on computers around campus. “Usually when a new virus is found, within six to seven hours, anti-virus software is available for it,” Freelove said. “The only situation (that might pose a problem for students using on-campus computers) is when a virus is so brand new that the anti-virus software hasn’t been released to counter it.”

According to Freelove, it is uncommon for viruses to spread so quickly that they don’t have an anti-viruse soon enough to counter it.

“Over the past year, there have only been about four that have spread that fast, NIMDA being one of them,” Freelove said.

Microcomputing and Network Services take care of all the computers on campus. Students who have viruses but live off-campus can call the Help desk at 245-4357. A help desk technician will walk the student through what to do to get rid of the virus.

The most important thing to do to ward off viruses is to make sure you have anti-virus software on you computer.

“Most computers come with Norton Anti-Virus already installed, but it’s usually a 30 day trial, and no one keeps it updated,” Freelove said. “You need to make sure you register it and keep it updated.”

Also, for those who do not have anti-virus software, Information Technology offers PC-Cillin to VSU staff, faculty and students. Visit http://www.valdosta.edu/antivirus/pccillin/ and enter your GRITS account and password. For more information on viruses, what’s out there and how to avoid or get rid of them, contact the help desk 245-4357, on the web at http://www.valdosta.edu/antivirus/index.shtml or email at antivirus@valdosta.edu.