Posted February 19, 2007

Computer Services fends off major virus outbreak


In a world full of Trojan horses, worms and other ominously named computer viruses, Temple has remained largely unaffected by their destructive powers. But on Jan. 27, Temple was hit with a Zero Day Outbreak, a set of viruses for which there is no existing protection.

According to Jim Papacostas, director of the Help Desk and Technical Support, the Zero Day Outbreak was composed of Spybot and IRCbot viruses, which installed themselves on vulnerable Windows computers within Temple’s network. Macintosh and Linux systems were not attacked by these viruses.

“Infected computers sought out vulnerable systems with the goal of flooding the network with so much traffic so that no one could access it,” Papacostas explained. “It’s known as a denial-of-service attack.”

On the evening of Jan. 27, an investigation into the cause of network sluggishness uncovered the virus outbreak. Members of Computer Services’ staff immediately began working around to clock with Symantec Corporation — the university’s antivirus software provider — to identify the virus and develop tools to stop and destroy it.

In order to prevent the spread of the virus, Computer Services staff used all the network tools available to contain it until Symantec had a solution. Computer Services had effectively contained the virus by Feb. 2, but its effects were still strongly felt for another week.

Students in Temple’s residence halls were the most vulnerable to the attack; no faculty or staff computers were affected. Temple’s residence halls are home to approximately 4,500 student computers: All told, nearly 1,700 students affected by the outbreak brought their infected systems for virus removal to Temple’s Help Desk in the two weeks following the attacks.

This situation created a tremendous surge for assistance from Computer Services which in response needed to deploy staff members from its various areas to assist the Help Desk staff meet the demand. The Help Desk team worked continuously, through the nights and on weekends, for two weeks with students to remediate their systems.

In order to keep the network protected, all on campus users are required to upgrade their Symantec antivirus software to version To upgrade a computer, go to Those who fail to upgrade their software will lose Internet access.

“We cannot stress enough the seriousness of this outbreak. Zero day outbreaks are difficult to contain,” said Seth Shestack, acting chief information security officer.

“Therefore, we need everyone to update their antivirus version, keep their definition files up to date, and make sure that the windows updates feature is enabled. Please remember that your actions on our network may affect all users of our network. Security is everyone’s responsibility.”

For more information on Temple University and computer security, visit

Tips for securing your computer

1. Keep your computer’s antivirus software updated

2. Swear off peer-to-peer file sharing

3. Turn on your computer’s automatic Windows updates

4. Change your AccessNet password frequently

5. Never share your password

6. Never open an e-mail attachment from someone you don’t know

7. Avoid sharing your e-mail address with unknown sources

8. Beware of phishing scams

9. Don’t download IM files from unknown sources

Virus protection and Temple

Installing virus protection software on your computer is key to keeping it safe from outbreaks. Temple University requires use of its free Symantec antivirus protection to on-campus users, available at

Temple students, faculty and staff can also purchase a Symantec AntiVirus CD for use in their home computers for $8. In addition, Computer Services is offering free Symantec upgrades for those who purchased Temple’s AntiVirus CD for home use prior to the outbreak.

To download the free upgrade, go to