Volume 94, Issue 1

Friday, May 12, 2000


NEWS

O-week survives the Senate intact

Western grads make top 40

Teachers flunk budget

The battle for books rages on

Western escapes virus' tough love

Pot party ready to take the next step

The coolest way to kill insects

Briefs

Media centre links UWO to Fanshawe

Faculty and admin dispute sees new light

Western escapes virus' tough love

By Wes Brown
Gazette Staff

Computer users found out just how much love can hurt when systems around the world were crippled by an electronic mail virus dubbed the 'Love Bug.'

The virus, which spread through the Microsoft e-mail program Outlook Express, contained an attachment whose subject was 'ILOVEYOU.' Upon opening the text script attachment, users discovered their e-mail systems, as well as other Windows based applications, were disabled.

Western, despite not using the Outlook Express application, was not immune to this epidemic. "We had a decent number of cases called in about it. People asking the cause of the virus, how you could possibly disinfect it," said Jim Thompson, a Help Desk consultant at Western's Information Technology Services.

Thompson said the problem was largely blamed on Microsoft products that have a history of being lax in security. He added there was little ITS could do about the problem except direct users to an anti-virus Web site.

"The virus was a Visual Basic script, a well known security hole in Microsoft software," he said. "In the end, it wasn't that bad of a problem for us. A lot of servers got hit a lot worse than we did."

Bruce Richards, systems manager for the faculty of computer science, explained Visual Basic program code is used by an array of Microsoft products such as Word, Excel and Exchange.

"It's a programming language that tells the computer to do something when the Visual Basic macro was executed," he said. "The 'Love Bug' was using the mail program to execute a Visual Basic code which was going in and changing some files and then mailing it on to others."

Richards said the virus was not shutting down users' e-mail, but overloading their systems with junk mail. "It's like getting truck loads of junk mail delivered to your door."

Western's computer science department received no problems with the virus, Richards said, explaining the department runs on a Unix based system that does not use the Visual Basic computer language.

Within the university, Engineering Information Technology Services had several occurrences of the bug show up on their mailing lists.

Kay Barry, manager of computer services, said they had a few of their users open the virus but for the most part they were able to isolate it before it could do any damage. "It infected their systems, but there was nothing really in there that was damaged."

Barry said their systems have been hit in the past with viruses, but have always been able to contain them. "The only way to combat them is to educate users and make sure they have active virus scanners up and running."


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Copyright The Gazette 2000