Schooled in Virus Protection: Students Aren't Like a Mobile Workforce

It's true that ivy-covered walls separate CIOs in higher education from their counterparts in the real world. Much of what Stonehill College CIO Gary Hammon does is specific to his so-called industry. But when it comes to security, the 2,400 co-eds at the Easton, Mass., college are like a mobile workforce. "Except in a real mobile workforce, you'd have more control," says Hammon. His first semester, he battled the Blaster and Sobig worms brought to campus by unsuspecting students returning from summer vacation. "We had to turn the student network off and clean up the laptops one residence hall at a time. We pledged 'Never again.'"

Today, Stonehill runs Proventia Desktop software from Internet Security Systems (ISS); when a student's laptop is infected, no malicious traffic can leave it, and any malicious traffic floating on the network is flagged before it reaches a PC. "Intrusion prevention just at the edge of your network is not sufficient,'' says Hammon. Rather than searching for a hard-coded signature like traditional antivirus software, the intrusion prevention system captures and quarantines suspicious programs, freeing only the innocent ones. Hammon established a default so that when students connect to the network, they are led directly to the ISS product download. These days, Hammon sees as many as 70,000 attempted network attacks in one day. So far, though, Stonehill computers remain safe. As for ROI, Hammon could calculate the number of potential hours spent trying to develop virus removal tools. But instead he returns to the mobile workforce analogy: "Here's the ROI: Can the workers -- or students -- do their jobs every day?" Problem solved.

Ellen O'Brien, a former senior editor at CIO Decisions, is now a senior editor at Storage magazine. Write to her at eobrien@techtarget.com.

This was first published in April 2006

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