School computers infected, but not by virus

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Monday, January 28, 2008
— A malicious piece of computer programming infected the Janesville School District’s computer network in recent weeks, causing computers to act up but no great loss of data, an official said.

The infection is known as a “data packet.” It’s not a virus, because it doesn’t replicate itself, said Director of Business Services Doug Bunton.

The packet caused individual computers across the district to lock up, shut down, restart or give false error messages, Bunton said.

While the district’s data was not threatened, individuals may have lost information in files they were working on when their computers shut down, Bunton said.

Report cards, which are coming out soon, were not affected, Bunton said.

The district has about 3,500 computers linked in a network. Teachers and others first noted problems in early January.

The data packet that caused the trouble may have entered through an e-mail or via a Web site when someone clicked on a download button, said Brandon Keirns, the district’s new manager of information systems.

It spread throughout the district, but not all computers were affected.

The district’s computer firewall stops such attacks all the time, but it’s still possible for one to slip through, Bunton said. In this case, the packet exploited a flaw in the Microsoft Windows operating system.

Bunton said he does not believe this was the work of a hacker.

Keirns said he can’t be sure the packet can’t exit a district computer and enter someone else’s.

But a “fix” from Microsoft that is now being installed should put an end to the danger from this particular packet, Keirns said.

Bunton expected 90 percent of computers to be back to normal today, after the Microsoft fix is installed. All of them should be fixed by Friday.

Once all computers are fixed, the packet essentially will be dead, Keirns said. However, copies of the packet probably still are out there somewhere, waiting to be invited in.

The district did not incur any costs from addressing the problem.

“Just headaches,” Bunton said.

Last updated: 12:43 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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