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Computer in Hansen
Illinois Wesleyan student Melissa Koeppen uses wireless internet available in the Hansen Student Center from the comfort of an easy chair in this file photo from the 2004-05 academic year.
Changes in Home Computers Means Fewer Problems for College Network

August 31, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Two years ago the W32/Blaster computer worm surfaced just days before Illinois Wesleyan University’s students moved into their dormitory rooms. As a result, members of the University’s Information Technology staff scrambled to make sure that infected computers did not wind up spreading the worm across the entire system.

This year another computer worm, this one called “ZoTob,” shut down computer systems around the country, including systems at CNN and The New York Times, on August 14, less then two weeks before Illinois Wesleyan’s first-year students arrived.

But according to Trey Short director of computer services at Illinois Wesleyan, there were almost no problems associated with students connecting their computers to the University’s network.

Short believes a number of factors have contributed to the relatively problem-free move-in this year.

On the one hand, the University has become more proactive in getting information out to parents of entering students. Members of the Information Technology staff held sessions during a parents’ orientation program in June, for instance.

“We provided information about the threats of viruses and spyware and discussed how best to protect a computer from these threats prior to arriving on campus,” said Short.

There are other changes, though, that Short thinks had a major impact. For instance, most of the computers being brought to campus by students are new. That means they are running Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and have some sort of virus protection already installed.

“The computers are set to auto-update security patches and virus definitions, better protecting the computer,” Short said.

Even so, Information Technology had created CDs equipped with virus protection, spyware protection, and virus/spyware cleaners and made those CDs available to students as they arrived at their residence halls with their computers.

“We posted signs on all residence hall doors informing students not to plug a computer into the campus network unless that computer had virus protection installed, and we also warned them to perform system updates as soon as they plugged into the network,” Short said.

While all these precautions made a difference, Short also says that the shift in Internet use from dial-up connections to DSL and cable modems on home computers has had an impact in the level of sophistication that students and parents have about the issues.

“The move from dial-up service to a broadband Internet connection with continuous access to the Internet has creating a computing environment at home that is similar to what students have in their rooms,” Short said. “Home broadband users quickly learn the importance of updating a computer’s operating system and virus definitions as well as installing some type of spyware preventions. The news media are also doing more to inform people of virus and spyware threats and how to protect a computer from these threats.”