A new virus protection system is being implemented to prevent infected computers from logging onto AU’s network, EagleNet, and to remind users to regularly update their virus protection software.
The introduction of the software is a response to high rates of infection among computers on the AU network, which have mostly affected students. Viruses infected almost 3,000 users since 2004 and have cost more than $110,000 to fix, according to Eric Weakland, director of network security in e-Operations.
A day-long system outage during finals week this past spring was traced to just a few infected, and unprotected, computers on the network. University networks are particularly vulnerable to the spread of viruses, because of the network’s open nature and the fact most users are connected all the time.
When users try to log on to the Internet for the first time this semester, they’ll view instructions on how to install and use the virus protection software, called Cisco Clean Access. E-Operations has tried to make the software as simple to operate as possible, Weakland said.
“What we looked for was the sweet spot,” he said. “... the minimum we could have users do to make sure that they were protected.”
Users could run into problems installing the software if they haven’t updated virus patches recently or their computers are already infected, according to Weakland.
More than 600 users in all residence halls except McDowell Hall and Tenley Campus have been using the software since mid-summer.
Jason Dombrowski, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs who installed the program over the summer, said he misses the control he had over his own virus protection but thinks the system is a good idea for less computer-savvy students.
“But people as a whole need to learn some basics about their computer’s health,” he said, “because Big Brother, a.k.a. the university, isn’t always going to be here to watch over your shoulder and protect you.”
Russ Croteau, a senior in SPA, said he had trouble setting up the software.
“It was a bastard to install,” he said. “I had to call the IT people two or three times.”
Croteau said he didn’t fully understand the problem, but that it may have had something to do with the Norton Antivirus software he already had installed. E-Operations guided him through the installation and the software has since run smoothly, he said.
The new virus protection system is called MARS2. The first MARS, which stands for MAC (Media Access Control) Address Registration System, was implemented in 1999 and allowed e-Operations to pair up computers with their owners.
Identifying the users of each of the 8,000 to 9,000 devices hooked up to the AU network during the school year prevents unauthorized access and allows e-Operations to track the source of viruses.
Macintosh users will not have to install the software, but they will have to agree to AU’s acceptable use policies to log on. None of the thousands of infections reported this year and last were on Macs, which make up about 12.5 percent of EagleNet users.
AU Network Tip:
For speedier connections, plug into the network using an Ethernet cable. Wireless can be slower. Also make sure you’re not plugged into both wired and wireless networks at the same time.