With the help of Information Technology Services, many Yalies have been patching their computers recently to stay one step ahead of hackers.
After Microsoft announced a vulnerability in its Windows operating systems, ITS has been sending out a rash of instructional e-mails in recent weeks to students whose operating systems were susceptible to infection. Yale’s information security officer, H. Morrow Long, said in an e-mail that there are three primary network based worms — Stealther, Blaster and Welchia — as well as two major e-mail based worms, Sobig.F and “Swen.” Students who received these e-mails said they were initially worried about the possibility of infection, but are no longer concerned.
The e-mail worms propagate themselves by sending mass-mailings with malicious attachments and do damage when a person opens one of the attachments. The network worms, which can be neutralized by various patches, set up a “backdoor” or “trojan” network by which an intruder can access an infected host computer. Long said these network worms can cause other problems, such as hiding or adding files to an infected computer.
Shari Wiseman ’06 said a computing assistant informed her via e-mail that the Welchia worm had infected her computer and later fixed the machine.
“All in all, [it was] a very positive experience,” Wiseman said. “And now my computer is strong as an ox.”
Despite the infection, which appeared to cause no lasting damage, Wiseman said she is not worried about future worms.
Annie Fang ’06 also received news that her computer had Welchia. Though she was initially troubled, Fang said the worm ended up doing her computer no harm.
“To my knowledge, it did nothing,” Fang said.
Laura Jacobson ’07 said she was apprehensive when she first heard the news of the worms, but is no longer nervous. Jacobson attributed her ambivalence to the fact that her computer never became infected.
“I was concerned about hooking [my computer] up initially, but someone from ITS helped me,” Jacobson said.
Meaghan Burke ’06 said she deletes the warning e-mails ITS sends because she just is not concerned about the possibility of infection.
“I think I’ll be okay,” Burke said.
Adam Hamill ’05, whose computer also was not infected, appeared to sum up the student mood.
“I’m not that worried,” Hamill said. “People don’t seem that worried about it.”
Though most students did not read much into the worm infestation, Adam Domby ’06 said he blames ITS.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if ITS gave me the virus,” Domby said. “I think ITS needs to get with it.”
Domby said the e-mail he received from ITS, which informed him that Welchia had infected his computer, looked “illegitimate.”
But Fang said she has more confidence in Yale’s response to the worms. She said she believes ITS has the situation “under control.”
Long said while ITS has gotten this worm outbreak “at a controllable level,” there still remains the possibility of future infections by other worms.
“Yale will always be a target,” Long said.