Help available to stop the spread of computer viruses

The Helpline is available to stop viruses, a concern on such a large network.

Nikki Wee

What looks like a seemingly innocent e-mail from Paris Hilton or the FBI can cause a world of frustration for those simply wanting to use their computers.

Even with the security programs the University requires students to use, users are still able to spread or catch viruses. Viruses, especially those caused by links sent through instant messaging, have become a problem on campus.

“Even with our security, there are huge problems,” said sophomore Felix Varghese, a University Technology Helpline consultant. “It’s pretty much impossible to remove viruses today.”

Varghese said residence halls are facing a big problem with the instant messaging virus, an undetectable virus that hides itself and installs programs in a user’s computer. These programs can decipher key strokes, and by doing so can steal usernames, passwords and other confidential information.

“(The instant messaging virus) is probably the one that has been a problem in the residence halls that students really have to worry about,” he said.

University students are able to get virus help through the Helpline, which offers free support to those who call in.

“We get a lot of calls,” said biochemistry sophomore Josh Hicks, a Helpline consultant. “On a typical shift of three to four hours, we can get anywhere from 10 to 20 calls, and there’s calls all day long.”

If the University detects a virus on a person’s computer, their computer is put into quarantine and is denied access to the network until the virus has been removed, he said.

When a user logs onto the network, the University scans the user’s computer for viruses, Hicks said.

After the virus has been removed, the Helpline contacts a technology security office that removes the computer from the quarantine list. This process usually takes two to four business days, he said.

To help prevent the spread of viruses, the Helpline set up a Web site for students that tells them how to remove viruses. Classes are also offered to help educate people on how to take preventive measures, Hicks said.

Because viruses are constantly changing, anti-virus programs have to be updated nearly every day, he said.

“We teach people how to use Symantec, an anti-virus program, and we advocate updating it often,” Hicks said.

Graduate student Mathew Cherian learned his lesson when his computer caught a virus.

“It makes me realize that it’s very important to frequently update my anti-virus system,” he said. “You really have to be careful about it.”

Cherian is now warning other computer users about viruses.

“I’m always telling my friends to protect their computers,” he said. “Do it, even if you have to spend some money.”

First-year nursing student Victoria Prince said she has never caught a computer virus before.

“I guess I’ve just been really lucky,” she said.

While she said she would be upset if her computer got infected, Prince said she wouldn’t be too surprised.

“I don’t take all the necessary precautions that I should,” Prince said. “Sometimes, I guess that I don’t think I will get one.”

Like Prince, sociology senior Tom Schroepfer said he has never caught a computer virus. He said he owes this, in part, to the University’s preventive efforts.

“I remember when I was in the dorms that I never had a problem with viruses,” he said.