New Computer Update Critical


Microsoft has released a major update that enhances Internet security by more effectively combating viruses, hackers and worms. Northern employees and students are strongly encouraged to invest the time required to complete a one-time installation of the Service Pack 2 update before or immediately after the holiday break.

It is also important to do the regular Symantec Anti-Virus and Windows critical updates upon your return to campus because the potential for trouble increases when a computer has been shut down for an extended period.

"New viruses or new Windows XP vulnerabilities may have cropped up since you last did an update," said John Limback (Academic Computing). "Doing the virus and windows updates immediately when you get back before reading e-mail or surfing the Net will, in most cases, protect you from any new problems."

NMU has adopted a proactive strategy in the hope of avoiding a repeat of the predicament that surfaced in January of last year.


"At the start of the winter semester we had over 650 faculty, staff and students who had to visit the Help Desk for virus-related issues," Limback said. "They were unable to effectively use their computers until their problems were resolved."


Performing frequent Symantec Anti-Virus and Windows critical updates are important, and should continue, but they may not address some of the attacks fueled by two primary culprits: Spyware and Adware. These programs can infect computers through e-mail attachments that are opened, Web pages infiltrated by a virus that are viewed through a browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer, and through unprotected ports on a computer connected to a network.


Viruses have the potential to spread and wreak havoc on other computers. There are two modes of transmission: a mechanism automatically forwards e-mail messages with infected attachments to the people listed in one's e-mail address book; or the virus perpetually clones itself and travels into a computer network such as the NMU network in search of vulnerable computers that do not have updated anti-virus software.


A number of side effects can occur when a computer becomes infected. The Web browser, and possibly other applications, may open very slowly or not at all. If the browser does open, the action may spawn numerous pop-up windows that when closed force even more pop-up windows to appear. The computer might not be capable of restarting and the network connection speed can be reduced to a sluggish pace.


When results like these happen, many people head to the Help Desk. They may join a long line of other users whose computers became infected because they did not update their anti-virus software. It can take an hour or longer for Help Desk to remedy the problem, depending on its complexity.


Instructions for the Microsoft update (Windows XP Service Pack 2), which only has to be done once, can be found at SP2. From there, a good resolution to carry through the new year would be to ensure that Symantec Anti-Virus is frequently updated and that Windows critical updates are installed as they become available.



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Updated: December 17, 2004