Saturday, January 14, 2012

How Secure is Your Campus Network?

Computer viruses undetected for over ten years - wow, scary stuff from Nanette Asimov - Viruses stole City College of S.F. data for years

Personal banking information and other data from perhaps tens of thousands of students, faculty and administrators at City College of San Francisco have been stolen in what is being called "an infestation" of computer viruses with origins in criminal networks in Russia, China and other countries, The Chronicle has learned.

At work for more than a decade, the viruses were detected a few days after Thanksgiving, when the college's data security monitoring service detected an unusual pattern of computer traffic, flagging trouble.

It appeared at first that the problem was contained in a single computer lab at Cloud Hall on the Phelan Avenue campus, one of a dozen City College sites around the city. David Hotchkiss, the chief technology officer, immediately shut the lab down and reported the problem to Chancellor Don Griffin, General Counsel Scott Dickey and Board of Trustees President John Rizzo.

But a closer look revealed a far more nefarious situation, which had been lurking within the college's electronic systems since 1999.


Each night at about 10 p.m., at least seven viruses begin trolling the college networks and transmitting data to sites in Russia, China and at least eight other countries, including Iran and the United States, Hotchkiss and his team discovered. Servers and desktops have been infected across the college district's administrative, instructional and wireless networks. It's likely that personal computers belonging to anyone who used a flash drive during the past decade to carry information home were also affected.

Some of the stolen data is probably innocuous, such as lesson plans. But an analysis shows that students and faculty have used college computers to do their banking, and the viruses have grabbed the information, Hotchkiss said.

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