By Mitch Holt, Opinion Editor
Students face technological risk on campus because of the AOL virus, which is a computer virus that latches on to a system through AOL Instant Messenger.
Josh Tooley, Team55 manager, said often the virus is received when someone clicks on a link sent through AIM from someone on that person’s buddy list. Clicking on that link presents the risk of downloading that virus onto one’s computer. Once it has downloaded onto one computer, the virus can spread itself to other computers on the network.
The immediate way to avoid this problem is by not clicking on links received through AOL Instant Messenger, even if they’re from a friend.
“This is a temporary fix,” Tooley said. “Essentially, the only way to solve the problem is for the student to become educated in safe computer use.”
Many times, people believe that an updated virus scanner can protect a computer from a virus, but this perception isn’t completely true because this particular virus is not just one virus, rather it’s a virus family, Tooley said. One virus on a computer leaves that computer susceptible to other members of its virus family.
The virus operates from a server somewhere in the world. Once it installs itself onto a computer and connects to that server, it then gains full control over the invaded computer.
Tooley said that the virus scans the network searching for vulnerable, not recently updated computers, and once it finds one it latches itself on to that computer.
“This not only causes concern for all the computers connected to the ACU network, but it also causes increased congestion, which slows the network down for everyone,” he said.
Tooley also said a computer that hasn’t recently been updated is just as bad as clicking on a link in AOL Instant Messenger.
It is important for students to frequently check for these software and network updates at least once a week and update for virus scanners at least once per day, Tooley said.
Team55 has been working to alert students about this problem, Tooley said. Providing an education and knowledge to students about this virus is where the group began. It has also blocked certain files from coming onto the network, protecting students from infecting themselves.
“Ultimately, it’s up to the student to practice safe messaging and to avoid clicking on links that come through instant messenger applications,” he said. “You must understand that [students] are essentially the cause and remedy for the problem.”
Joel Crane, RESNET supervisor for Team55, said that when a computer receives a virus, the owner might not know it right away, but it’s there. He said that when students click on a virus-infected link from an AOL Instant Messenger window, the link doesn’t do anything noticeable, but internally, the virus is downloading to the computer and, in turn, infecting the entire network.
“When someone’s computer gets the virus, that person should bring the computer to the Team55 office so we can get rid of the virus,” Crane said. “A person who has been infected cannot use the Internet with his computer until cleared by us.”