Blaster computer virus could spread when U students return

ABy Jens Manuel Krogstad A second wave of attacks from a computer virus that has already affected hundreds of University computers could hit again during fall semester, an Office of Information Technology official said.

The virus, which began infecting computers Aug. 11, caused hundreds of University computers to repeatedly reboot themselves, slowing the University’s network.

“It’s probably one of the worst (viruses) we’ve had,” Office of Information Technology Security manager Ken Hanna said.

Hanna said the virus could spread again next month when returning students start plugging computers that might have been infected into the University’s network.

Commonly known as the “blaster worm,” the virus is transmitted over the Internet and affects machines running Microsoft Windows 2000, NT and XP. Computer users do not need to open an attachment to get the virus, unlike e-mail viruses.

The Office of Information Technology shut down infected Internet accounts to try to slow the spread of the worm. It also e-mailed instructions to computer owners for how to solve virus-related problems.

The virus can be removed by simply installing a program called a patch, Hanna said. The virus can be prevented by ensuring anti-virus software is installed and up to date. The University provides free anti-virus software to students and faculty.

Though the Office of Information Technology was working on the problem as soon as the virus appeared, each academic department has its own technology division responsible for keeping their computers running, Hanna said.

Stephen Winckelman, Information Technology manager for the School of Mathematics, said his department has had no trouble and this particular virus is “very preventable.” He said his department avoided the virus by updating anti-virus software before it hit.

Fairview-University Medical Center was affected by the virus, however. The hospital shut down its computerized system for processing incoming patients for more than eight hours Tuesday as a precautionary measure. Nurses instead kept track of patients by paper.

Patient care was not affected, a spokeswoman for the hospital said.

Jens Manuel Krogstad covers student life and welcomes comments at [email protected]