Though computer viruses plague UCSB student computer networks on and off campus, network technicians are providing services to help students protect themselves.

The campus computer network, ResNet, and the campus e-mail system, U-mail, both offer at least a basic level of protection against computer viruses within the domains they service. Nonetheless, staff for both U-mail and ResNet said computer viruses are common among students both on and off campus and that generally students are able to deal with the problem themselves.

People spread computer viruses via email, disks and other methods of transferring files. Some viruses, known as worms, are able to copy themselves and propagate to other computers without manual intervention.

U-mail, which offers a free e-mail address to all UCSB students, is able to catch some viruses, but with several limitations, U-mail Systems Administrator Lopaka Delp said.

“We’re only able to filter a virus out if it’s sent through U-mail,” he said. “If our system gets an e-mail from anywhere outside with the properties of a virus, we send it back to whomever sent it.”

U-mail is unable to stop or detect viruses distributed in any other fashion than through its servers, Delp said.

The ResNet staff equips on-campus students with a ResNet CD early in the school year, which includes an anti-virus program. The CD is also available free at ResNet fairs or from the ResNet office.

“We provide Norton Anti-Virus on the ResNet CD. We purchase licenses so all our students can install it if they wish,” Housing and Residential Services Information Systems Manager George Gregg said. “Of course, a lot of students have their own anti-virus solution, and some don’t understand the situation enough to bother.”

ResNet also uses its homepage as a line of defense against viruses.

“We generally set up students’ computers so that their homepage is the ResNet page, so that’s one way we put up notification about any viruses,” Gregg said.

Many students are unconcerned by the risks.

“Hardly any students maintain the ResNet page as their homepage,” Gregg said. “They have something they’re more interested in.”

Freshman pre-biology major Scott Sampson said he is not worried

“I had a virus once that compressed my hard drive,” he said. “I had to reformat it, but that was about all.”

Freshman computer science major Ian King also encountered a non-destructive virus.

“I still haven’t gotten rid of it because I don’t have anti-virus programming in Windows,” he said. “The only reason I had reason to believe that I had [the virus] is because I made a boot disk, and when I put it in someone else’s computer, their virus scanner caught it. I think I still have it. Fortunately, it’s benign. I think people go too crazy about this whole virus thing.”

Many times, what students believe to be a virus is actually not, Delp said.

“Since the term is used loosely, there are a lot of people who would automatically decide that if something’s wrong with their computer, it’s a virus,” he said. “Some of their files were deleted: it’s a virus. But it could just be their roommate clearing the trashcan.”

Computer and Network Technologist Alex Mook said viruses are simply a common occurrence on large computer networks.

“Every six weeks to two months we get one that makes us scramble,” he said. “There’s always a plague. To me, we have a plague everyday. I don’t care what anyone says, there always is.”