Editor’s Note: In Sept. 27’s article, “ResNet Limits Platforms,” Brad Andrews, a UC Berkeley Residential Computing manager, was purported to say that UCB requires all Windows 2000 users to log on as “administrator.” In fact, Windows 2000 has a default “Administrator” account that is easily hacked if it’s protected by an easy-to-guess password.
The Nexus regrets this errors.
ResNet has ordered a preemptive strike against a dangerous piece of software loose on the residential network: Windows 2000.
Windows 2000 was “primarily responsible for hundreds of major problems” last year along with Windows NT, according to the ResNet Windows 2000 Policy available online. Examples of these problems are viruses (such as Code Red and Nimda), denial-of-service attacks and port scanning.
When a user port scans another computer, the target computer is scanned for programs running that are vulnerable to attack because of a flaw in the program’s code. A denial-of-service attack occurs when an overwhelming number of forged requests are sent to the server, either from a single attacking computer or spread across multiple attacking computers, which causes legitimate users to be rejected from the server or the server to crash.
The new policy means that any student with a Windows 2000 or NT operating system is not able to connect to the Internet. The ResNet policy recommends upgrading to Windows XP via the UCSB Bookstore, where XP Professional is available for $89.
Many students being forced to upgrade are disgruntled, but buy the software rather than lose the network connection.
“I couldn’t connect at first, and decided to ignore it,” senior business economics major Tom Tonthat, said. “Just because they say it, doesn’t mean it won’t work, but in this case they were right. I had to cave in and buy XP, which I hated.”
“I have been using my friend’s e-mail,” said Sumedha Swarup, a computer engineering sophomore. “If someone has the proper virus software, they should be able to go online.”
The bookstore, which usually sells three to five copies of Windows XP in two to three months, has sold 30 copies in the last two weeks, according to Andy Schramm, student supervisor of the bookstore’s computer department.
“Every customer that I’ve helped that bought the upgrade has bought it to upgrade from Windows 2000 and because of the ban, not because they felt it was time to upgrade their software,” he said. “Most people are kind of irked, but no one has been extremely aggravated.”
ResNet has defended its policy.
“[Windows] 2000 was a very small presence last year. That small presence caused a large number of problems on ResNet,” ResNet Coordinator Curtis Kline said.
Windows XP, however, is allowed and even recommended, despite having similar security problems. The reason XP is allowed is in the default settings, Kline said. The default configuration of Windows 2000 is not as secure as it could be.
“A lot of default settings were changed between 2000 and XP,” Kline said.
Other schools, while not banning Windows 2000, have also experienced problems.
Hacked machines at Berkeley are quickly taken off the network according to Berkeley Residential Computing Manager Brad Andrews.
“Our broad policy is not to outlaw it [Windows 2000] directly,” he said.
Even so, Andrews said hacked machines at Berkeley are almost exclusively running Windows 2000.
Berkeley Residential Computing does require that all machines running Windows 2000 be logged in as “administrator,” with a non-dictionary password.
“Most who’ve been hacked don’t know what’s going on,” Andrews said.
USC, UCLA, and UCSC all provide instructions on their websites for configuring assorted operating systems, including Windows 2000, to connect to the Internet, but have no additional restrictions.
ResNet tried a different tactic last year: free virus protection for all students. CDs were given out to students living in the ResHalls with copies of Norton Anti-Virus.
“Our experience from last year shows that students either didn’t know how [to protect their computers] or didn’t care,” said Kline. “We could come up with a document that would explain how to secure Windows 2000, but it would be beyond most students.”
The problematic operating system was originally intended for use in a business or corporate setting.
“[Windows] 2000 was designed to have an administrator to take care of problems,” Kline said.
Other operating systems may pose similar problems, but ResNet managers remain optimistic.
“We hope security problems with 2000 will be an anomaly,” Kline said.
Students are also not limited to an upgrade, he said. Some other options are to downgrade to Windows 98, get a free operating system such as Linux, or simply go without an Internet connection. A free upgrade is not possible due to budget concerns, though students receiving financial aid can get help to cover the cost of the upgrade.
Students are exempt from the ban if they absolutely need Windows 2000 for an educational reason, such as a very high-level piece of software, which requires Windows 2000 to run.
So far, 10 students have petitioned for an exemption, but none have received one. According to Kline, “they just don’t want to upgrade.”
“ResNet is provided to all residents of university-owned housing, and comes with responsibilities. One is not to cause a negative impact,” he said. “We consider the entire operating system a danger to the community.”