April 19, 2004 Vol. VIII, No. 14



Campus Revs Up Defense Against Computer Hackers

Aggressive, Unified Strategies Urged to Combat Escalating Assaults on University Networks

In March, computer hackers made off with personal information on nearly 180,000 students, employees and applicants from a San Diego State University financial aid office server.

The infamous worm blaster virus recently infected more than 6,000 Stanford University computers. Repair costs reportedly exceeded $800,000.

During the last few weeks, reported supercomputer infiltrations at 20 educational and research institutions disrupted the National Science Foundation- funded TeraGrid computer network used for genome sequencing.

Universities nationwide are facing the escalation of such attacks on their computer systems, according to Steven Fitzgerald, chief technology officer of Cal State Northridge's Information Technology Resources (ITR) unit.

The campus' growing list of security concerns includes copyright infringement such as the illegal file-sharing targeted by recent Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lawsuits, as well as privacy and confidential data exposure issues.

Northridge is defending its systems, Fitzgerald said, by taking aggressive steps "from a technical, educational and policy perspective." He believes, however, that the best defense involves the entire campus community working with ITR in a proactive strategy for self-protection.

University actions include:

Continued IT security training for CSUN employees who have access to vital information is planned, as is the hiring of a full-time information security officer.

Campus users can:

"Above all," Fitzgerald urged, "ask questions."

To some, the word 'security' means restriction, he said, acknowledging a perceived threat to the campus culture of open inquiry and freely shared information. "Actually, we want only to restrict unauthorized individuals, such as hackers, from using our information 'highway system.' "

Campus information technology-related policies are posted at www.csun.edu/policy


@csun | April 19, 2004 issue
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