UW News

January 6, 2005

Attend to security or risk Internet ostracism, computer expert warns

News and Information

Any individual who does not attend to his or her computer’s security could be responsible for having all UW messages banned from major Internet service providers, UW computer experts warn.

Computers either at work or at home that use UW computer services may be vulnerable to spam-bot viruses that launch thousands or even tens of thousands of e-mail messages. Some of the larger Internet providers may respond to such spam invasions by banning e-mail originating from certain sites.

UW messages recently were blocked for brief periods of time by AOL and AT&T. Restoring service can take several weeks and a lot of labor-intensive detective work by UW computing staff, says Oren Sreebny, director of client services and learning technologies for Computing & Communications.

“The day of the non-managed computer is over,” he says. “Computers need to be managed pro-actively, or a few people who don’t manage their machines can cause grief for the entire institution.”

Information on how to manage your computer to improve security is available at: http://www.washington.edu/computing/security/management.html.

Every computer user needs to ensure that the operating system is updated, that anti-virus programs are installed and are kept current, and that care is exercised in viewing e-mail and opening attachments.

Sreebny warns that the days of reliable e-mail delivery may well be ending. As Internet providers become more aggressive in trying to block spam, they may end up using technologies that also affect “good” messages inadvertently, blocking them or relegating them to “junk mail” folders. “There’s no guarantee that your message will get through these spam filters and collectors,” he says. Sending important messages by e-mail may not be a good idea, especially if the message is being sent to someone outside the UW, or being forwarded to a non-UW account.