• United States
by Steve Taylor and Joanie Wexler

University thwarts network assault

Sep 16, 20032 mins

* Protecting against network attacks

Lately, we have stressed the importance of keeping your anti-virus and spam-filtering systems up to date to avoid becoming an unwitting co-conspirator in the spread of network viruses and e-mail worms.  Wayne State University in Detroit deserves kudos for doing exactly this.

When Sobig.F struck, the local papers around the country were filled with stories of colleges and universities under siege. Many were being hit by a double whammy: their own servers were falling under attack at the same time students were returning to school with infected PCs.  So we were most curious as to how WSU fared.

It turns out that WSU had already installed a new e-mail system that included system-wide virus protection and e-mail filtering. According to Dr. Patrick Gossman, WSU’s director, academic technologies and customer services, the university had installed a hardened Mirapoint e-mail server appliance that “cleaned over half a million e-mails in one week and proved what a great investment it was.” 

His strongest statement was that there were many users on campus who never even knew of the Sobig assault. Gossman indicated that the departments that did not communicate via the Mirapoint system encountered significant problems. Those using the Mirapoint server did experience some slowdown in performance, given the increased volume of mail, but overall the system handled the load well, he said. 

The moral of the story is that having a centralized managed resource to protect your network against people who don’t play fairly is worth investigating.  We often talk about the effect of the network infrastructure on applications; conversely, applications that behave in an aberrant manner have a huge impact on the network and, thus, on other applications. To paraphrase John Donne, “No OSI Layer is an island, entire of itself.”

Next time, we’ll provide more details from WSU.