Feeds

Exeter Uni goes offline to fight mystery malware

Great late coursework excuse

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

The University of Exeter took the unusual step of temporarily taking its network down this week in response to a virulent virus outbreak.

Computers at the south west England university were taken offline on Monday for a clean-up in response to an unidentified malware outbreak, which has since been contained.

By Thursday the vast majority of the network was back up and running, according to the Uni's lastest status update. Exeter is the seat of learning for 15,000 students with three campuses, two in Exeter and a smaller facility in Cornwall.

David Allen, registrar and deputy chief executive of the university, told students and lecturers that taking the campus network offline was a necessary step in fighting the infection, which came in through "PCs running Microsoft Windows Vista Service Pack 2".

"Experience of dealing with data corrupting viruses elsewhere indicates that it is essential to shut down the network ASAP to avoid so many machines and files being corrupted that it takes weeks to recover," Allen explained. "Therefore, although this is a PC rather than a network problem, we had to shut down the network to isolate the virus."

Exeter is yet to respond to our query on what strain of malware was involved in the attack.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said that systems may have been taken offline to fight a worm that exploited a specific vulnerability, perhaps involving Vista. Cluley added that although disconnecting systems is not standard practice in malware cleanups, it may be necessary to stop a handful of systems reinfecting everything else.

The Cornwall campus was isolated from the main University of Exeter network to avoid spreading the malware. Systems in the main two campuses and across residential networks were taken offline during the shutdown. That meant both the Virtual Learning Environment and interactive teaching boards in lecture rooms were put out of commission.

Perhaps more seriously, Voice over IP (VoIP) telephones in offline buildings were also rendered unavailable during the clean-up operation. Outlook Web Access (OWA) and the MyExeter portal were working throughout, however, so students and teachers were able to send emails or files via off-campus systems. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
KER-CHING! CryptoWall ransomware scam rakes in $1 MEEELLION
Anatomy of the net's most destructive ransomware threat
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.