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IT stops virus sent to students

by Jordan Barela & Alex Corbitt

IT always has its hands full maintaining the massive tech network on campus, but on Jan. 22, the department faced a bigger problem – a virus sent to 2,500 VSU email accounts, which eventually infected 150 computers.

The virus was attached in an email with the subject “You have received a new fa.”

“The email originated on a mailing list that was distributed to many VSU email addresses,” Brian Haugabrook, VSU IT Director, said. “If you opened the attachment, the malware immediately forwarded the email to everyone you had on your contact
list. Within a few minutes the virus spread to the entire campus.”

Though this virus spread within minutes after infecting its first computer, VSU’s IT team was able to stop the spread within 15 minutes. IT caught the malware shortly before 11:00 a.m. After catching the malware, IT sent out a series of emails to Valdosta.edu accounts, warning users.

“Our firewall was able to identify the threat and shut down access to and from the botnet outside of VSU within 12 minutes of the initial event,” Joe Newton, director of Infrastructure Support Services, said.

The malware was a variant of the Backdoor.IRCBot worm. According to Newton, this form of malware not only could make copies of it, but could also make pathways to be able to copy information from the computer.

Because the IT technicians have seen an influx of spam recently, they have started working with Microsoft to find a solution and decrease the chances of this happening again.

Since the virus was quickly quarantined by the IT team, many students didn’t even know it had happened.

“I feel like VSU’s email is safe, but I hope we find whoever did it,” said Timothy Lewis, a student who didn’t even know about the virus incident.

Newton felt confident in IT’s action plan for dealing with the malware.

“This threat could have easily infected over 2,000 computers but reached less than 5% of the total computers on campus,” Newton said. “IT has made many improvements to provide great and rapid service over the past year that was clearly shown today.”

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