Viruses Infect Personal Computers of Students and Staff

A high number of computer viruses recently infected the Ramapo College network, reported campus Information Technology Services.

ITS detected the malicious programs on personal computers of returning students and college employees after the winter break. The majority of the affected machines were not protected by appropriate anti-virus software.

According to Michael Skafidas, infrastructure manager, ITS has blocked and cleaned 12 student computers since the beginning of the Spring 2013 semester.

"We are still seeing individual student computers on the Ramapo College network that do not have updated anti-virus software and fundamental security controls in place," Skafidas said. "Peer-to-peer file sharing is also still prevalent. This includes Macs as well as PCs."

ITS sent an email on Jan. 17, warning the Ramapo student body and explaining the issue. The email warned students that infected personal computers will be blocked from the network until all malicious programs are removed.

To prevent infections from spreading through the school network, ITS uses a complex and in-depth approach.

"Security requires a defense in-depth strategy that includes several layers of security. In the event that one layer is circumvented, another layer is there to provide protection," Skafidas said. "Ramapo College subscribes to this methodology in our security implementation with several layers of technological security for both incoming and outgoing internet traffic."

However, protecting the network is not enough to completely prevent personal computers from contracting infection. User responsibility is a major component of maintaining an infection-free machine. 

According to the ITS website, "student computers are expected to have anti-virus software installed and running on them at all times. All anti-virus software must be constantly updated or it will not properly identify new viruses."

All registered students, staff and faculty members at Ramapo can download a free anti-virus application. They can access the download link online at

In addition to the anti-virus software, Skafidas advises that all students have a firewall activated at all times. Students should also use strong passwords and never share them with third parties or use them on multiple websites.

Peer-to-peer file sharing and downloading copyrighted audio or video files are common factors that can jeopardize user security on the Internet.

Sheena Gulliani, a freshman, said that she does not use anti-virus software since hers expired.

Gulliani is, however, confident that ITS is doing a good job to protect students' computers.

"Nothing happened so far," she said.

Mark Ellebracht, a sophomore, also "hadn't had any issues" with his computer security so far. He uses anti-virus software and is cautious about the places he visits online.

"When I get a warning about a website, I try to avoid it," Ellebracht said.

Ashley Baker, a senior, did not have any issues with her computer security until the beginning of the semester, when she received an email from a faculty member and it hacked her account.

She managed to deal with the problem easily.

"All I had to do is change my account," Baker said.

Baker has anti-virus protection and believes that ITS is effectively "making people aware." She says that it is the students' fault if they don't follow ITS' advice.

"If you have a problem, they can help you," Baker said.