CCSF president pledges Internet security crackdown after learning of widespread virus infection 

Virus alert: A virus in City College of San Francisco’s computer system may have been transmitting data overseas. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • courtesy photo
  • Virus alert: A virus in City College of San Francisco’s computer system may have been transmitting data overseas.

City College of San Francisco’s board president vowed Friday to bring the school’s Internet security system up to speed after learning a virus had been lurking in campus computers for the past 10 years.

Board of trustees President John Rizzo said Friday that the college’s IT department recently discovered that a virus on computers throughout the district — including the administrative system that logs financial information — had been capturing keystrokes and screenshots and potentially transmitting personal information to IP addresses in Russia, China and other locations.

Rizzo described the breech as “absolutely shocking” and said the board of trustees should help administration address the college’s outdated computer systems, but stopped short of acknowledging the board could have played a role in ensuring better security all along.

“Part of our problem is these severe budget cuts from the state — we just haven’t been able to keep up our hardware and software like we need to,” Rizzo said.

Chancellor Don Griffin did not return calls for comment Friday, but in an email to students and employees sent Friday, he said the college hired a computer security system firm to determine how widespread the virus is and what information may have been transmitted.

Preliminary reports show at least one server connected to a student computer lab did transfer information, but the full analysis will take about two to three weeks to complete, he said in his email.

The college is evaluating settings for two computer firewalls and upgrading antivirus software, according to Griffin’s email.

Rizzo said the college has also begun changing passwords that haven’t been reset in years.

To ensure long-term security, Rizzo said he would seek funding for new hardware and software, some of which is as old as the virus.

“It’s like a wildfire that’s been contained. We’ve plugged some of the holes, we’ve stopped it from spreading,” Rizzo said.

On the college’s Ocean Avenue campus, students had mixed reactions to the news.

Nixon Gatchalin, 28, of San Francisco said he is careful where he shops online and doesn’t even like to give his Social Security number at his doctor’s office. He trusted the college to have a secure system, he said.

Student Trustee Jeffrey Fang said he understood students’ concern.

“I know we’ve been pretty trusting of the school’s network,” said Fang. “We know there’s a layer of security there, there is faith and confidence in it.”

With a student population that grew up with the Internet and its culture of oversharing, many students were unfazed by the news.

“It happens all the time,” said Darnice Davis, 22, of Oakland. “I can either keep my information to myself or give it and get an education.”





Worried about being a victim?

Tips for protecting your information online:

  • Change passwords to email accounts, online bank accounts and other accounts
  • Do not use campus computers for personal computing, such as shopping and banking
  • Make sure virus protection software is installed and updated regularly on personal computers
  • Keep track of bank statements or request a free credit report

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Sarah Gantz

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Saturday, Apr 21, 2018

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