Virus infects many campus computers

by Zachary Goldstein | 5/4/04 5:00am

A new Windows computer virus scourging the campus has incapacitated student computers, producing long lines at the Computing Services desk in Baker-Berry Library and frustrating the efforts of at least one professor attempting to teach class.

Victoria Sevastianova's Russian 13 class came to a halt Monday after a computer infected with the "Sasser virus" prevented the machine from turning on. Sevastianova's class did nothing for 10 to 15 minutes before Classroom Technology Services arrived to provide another computer, according to Lidia Barabash '05, a student in the class.

The virus has not confined itself to professors' computers, however -- many students have also complained about its effects. Most students who suspect that their computer has been infected report that after they turn on their computer, the computer automatically shuts down within a minute regardless of anything the user does.

The sudden shutdowns have caused dozens of distraught users to seek assistance at the campus computer help desk. So many students and faculty showed up on Monday afternoon that some were turned away because of sheer volume of requests.

For the students who braved the long lines, the help desk used a removal tool to get rid of the virus and then updated Windows and Norton Antivirus for the user.

Campus computing officials said most Sasser infections occurred because users' failed to properly patch their operating system or antivirus software.

"It's unfortunate, but if the Windows Updates had been set to automatic, they wouldn't have got it," Director of Telecommunications Bob Johnson said.

The virus is not restricted to the Dartmouth campus. Employees at Dell computer's help line said they are experiencing extended wait times because of the "recently released internet worm" that is causing computers to "continuously reboot."

Students who want to remove the virus on their own are instructed to start the computer in "safe" mode and follow the steps at www.microsoft.com/security/incident/sasser.asp

Computer services officials urged all students to ensure that their Norton and Windows settings are configured so that both update automatically. Instructions for setting Windows updates can be found at http://v4.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/en/default.asp. The help desk is also handing out instructions to help confused students.

"If only people did the Windows updates and kept Norton Antivirus up to date, we wouldn't be having this problem," said Ellen Young, the manager of Academic Consulting Services.