ITR pushes free anti-virus software downloads

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Since CSUN began providing free access to an anti-virus computer program for students, faculty and staff in January, more than 6,500 people have downloaded the program, said Steven Fitzgerald, chief technology officer for Information Technology Resources.

The free anti-virus software – the commercially-available Norton Anti-Virus program – is meant for use on personal or home computers, and can be downloaded by users on the Campus Web Portal. A person can only download the program once, and ITR suggests that users save the program to a storage device or burn it onto a compact disc following download.

“We’re pushing people to use that,” said Al Arboleda, information security officer for ITR.

The CSU system has stressed the importance of anti-virus software and information security following an incident at the CSU Chancellor’s Office in August.

A computer in the office was infected with a virus, and as a result, the names and Social Security numbers of 152 CSU students who receive financial aid were exposed, as well as the names and Social Security numbers of two financial aid administrators in the system. The CSU notified the individuals by letter as required by state law, and the CSU said in a statement that there was no indication that any of the personal data was accessed.

After the incident, the CSU system disclosed information about security breaches and became more cautious in protecting its personal information, Arboleda said.

“We haven’t had a problem here yet, but there is always a potential,” Arboleda said. “A lot of CSU campuses this year have (had) problems.”

He said the installation of the software is important.

“Obviously, not everybody has a computer at home,” he said. “So if the students want to download, the number should go up a lot higher too.”

Arboleda said nine California schools, in addition to the Chancellor’s Office, have had data breaches in 2005: CSU Stanislaus, Sonoma State University, Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Dominguez Hills, Chico State University, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and USC.

At CSUN, ITR has been working to prevent personal information from viruses, hackers and security breaches through the help of anti-virus software, patches, encryption and firewalls.

“We have – anti-virus scanning,” Fitzgerald said. “So all e-mails that come to the campus (are scanned for) viruses. All students, faculty and staff have their e-mail accounts, and their e-mails are protected.”

There is always a chance, however, that e-mail messages with viruses may come through undetected, he said.

All of the computers on campus have firewalls to enforce security policies, block unwanted sources and watch all incoming and outgoing network traffic, Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said funding provided last year for university-wide computer virus protection was used to outfit computers both on and off campus with the software.

Today, the purchase of the program by the university includes 30,000 licenses for students, 4,000 for faculty and staff in their homes, and 9,000 for on-campus computers.

To make sure all machines on campus are ready for protected use, computers must have anti-virus software installed and be up-to-date with all critical operating system “patches,” which fix any holes in the software, Fitzgerald said.

“Make sure that you have (a) personal firewall,” he said, adding that it should be turned on.

He also suggested encrypting all personal or confidential information.

October was declared National Cyber Security Month by the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Department of Homeland Security to educate the public about safe online activity.

“This is a good time (for people) to talk about how to protect themselves because this is Cyber Security Month,” Arboleda said.

He recommends the website www.staysafeonline.org to students, faculty and staff who want to learn more about protecting themselves and computers while using the Internet.

The Cyber Security Month’s website highlights eight steps a person can go through to protect his or her various online user identifications, driver’s license, credit card numbers, Social Security number and other things while on the web.

ITR also plans to install a program called Active Directory, which helps manage a computer’s desktop, on machines across campus. The program is already in place on 2,200 computers, according to Arboleda.

Aya Oikawa can be reached at aya.oikawa.73@csun.edu.