College Campus Network Still Infected by a Computer Virus from 1999

Administrative, instructional and wireless networks all infected by as many as seven viruses

2 min read
College Campus Network Still Infected by a Computer Virus from 1999

There was an under-reported IT security story this past week that caught my eye involving the City College of San Francisco (CCSF). Back in November, a keystroke logger virus, among others, was discovered in its computer systems. By itself, this would not be major news, because college campuses are ripe hacking targets for a variety of reasons.

However, according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, one of the seven viruses had resided in the system undetected for longer than a decade! The oldest virus is thought to date to 1999. 

As of Friday, the viruses were still active. The Chronicle says that CCSF administrators are telling students and employees to "…change computer passwords, avoid using school computers for banking or purchases, and to check home computers for viruses" since the viruses have, the college's Chief Technology Officer warned, infected servers and desktops "…across administrative, instructional and wireless networks."

CCSF has about 100,000 students attending it every year, and 3,000 employees. Anyone downloading information onto a flash drive from CCSF's computer networks could have also unwittingly downloaded one of the viruses and potentially infected any computer the drive was connected to.

An AP story about the incident noted that every day at 10:00 PM, the virus would start trolling the college's networks looking for data to send overseas. That would make it morning in Eastern Europe and afternoon in Asia where the college says the suspected hackers reside.

The AP quotes John Rizzo, president of the college’s Board of Trustees as saying that:

"We don’t know the extent to which data was captured. We don’t know if individuals were affected, if they had data stolen that has affected them. But the potential is there."

Mr. Rizzo also indicated that it may take several weeks to fully understand the extent of the infection, and likely much longer to create a truly secure IT environment again. The SF Chronicle reports that the college's vice chancellor for finance "... defended the college's past efforts at virus protection, saying the school had two firewalls." It went on to quote him as saying:

"In spite of that, bad guys keep trying to get ahead of the good guys. And in this case they did."

Yeah, by about 10 years.

The Conversation (0)

Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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