Indiana University Shakes a Nasty Network Virus
Indiana University (IU) is one of the oldest state universities in the Midwest and is also one of the largest universities in the United States, with more than 100,000 students, faculty and staff on eight campuses. Information technology is critical to the University community. IU faculty and staff understand the potential for disaster that computer viruses represent in an environment where Internet downloads and e-mail proliferate. To that end, the university was diligent in keeping the workstations of faculty, staff and students -- as well as its own PCs and servers -- outfitted with anti-virus software. In addition, since 1996, the university has made available to students IUware, a CD that contains anti-virus software and other programs designed to help make their IU experience more successful.
A Hidden Menace
Every year, the university re-evaluates its software to determine its continued effectiveness. Coincidentally, during product evaluations in late 1998, the university's Bloomington campus was struck with a macro virus attack against which the current anti-virus software was ineffective. University technical support staff were powerless as well. 'When students or faculty called to report a virus, our security staff couldn't point them toward our current anti-virus software. It was incapable of detecting all the macro viruses that were plaguing us,' says Mark Bruhn, university information technology policy Officer.
A single macro virus can pose a significant threat to a college campus, where infection is easily transferred through students sharing even a single floppy disk in a computer lab. And, although many macro viruses are annoying rather than devastating, their detrimental effects on busy university students can result in a considerable decrease in productivity.
The university had recently started concentrating on increasing the overall security of their information systems and had created two new offices to address those issues. University staff had also begun a widespread program aimed at educating others about safe computing practices and encouraged staff, faculty and students to seek help from university technical staff. So, when students and faculty members presented their virus problems and the university's current solution was inadequate, it became imperative to find a better solution immediately.
Search and Protect
In both their testing environment and real-world applications, Symantec's Norton AntiVirus was the product of choice. Brian Voss, director of teaching and learning, information technology, made a discovery with the new software. 'As soon as I loaded Norton AntiVirus on my PC here at the university -- which, until then, had been using the other anti-virus software -- it detected and repaired 38 infected documents,' he says. 'In addition, our executive staff regularly shares documents via e-mail, and when they loaded Norton AntiVirus on their PCs, it found more than 200 infected documents.'
Norton AntiVirus's high detection and repair rates were the key factors in the University's decision to go with the product. It offered Indiana University the most inclusive first line of defense against virus threats. Norton AntiVirus protects workstations at all virus entry points, including e-mail attachments and Internet downloads, places that pose the greatest threat in a university setting. Voss points out that compressing files is the preferred method of downloading data from the Internet, so the product's support for ZIP, LZEXE, LHA and other popular compressed file formats offered additional valuable protection.
Now, the University will protect its faculty, staff and students with Norton AntiVirus for Windows, NT, NetWare and Macintosh. It is available to students via the IUware CD, and faculty and staff have access to the software from their department support providers.
Norton System Center, a plug-in for the Microsoft Management Console, plays a critical role in enabling administrators to deploy, configure, monitor, and update anti-virus software from a central point. 'Central administration features allow a local support provider in a University department to better observe, control, and protect his or her environment,' says Voss. 'Our local support providers will make great use of those tools.'
In evaluating anti-virus offerings, the University considered scalability and features high priorities as well, and Norton AntiVirus excelled in both. 'Norton AntiVirus offered the scalability the University requires,' says Voss. 'Our previous anti-virus software was limited to Windows only, whereas Norton AntiVirus offers coverage across several platforms.'
Bruhn adds that students and faculty will likely use the Quarantine and Scan and Deliver features to isolate questionable files and send them to the Symantec AntiVirus Research Center (SARC) for analysis, if necessary.
This article originally appeared in the 09/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.