Malware invasion! Poets pained by printer problems

Malware invasion! Poets pained by printer problems

Malware invasion! Poets pained by printer problems

News Editor Nathan Tolfa

 

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Malware was introduced via a compromised account into a number of Whittier’s Windows-based services on Saturday, March 3. This caused some problems for students trying to use The Wardman Public Library’s printing services. 

An email sent out by the Whittier College Alert System on March 5 listed the services affected by the Malware as: “Argos (report system), Blackboard (door access), Campuscall (Phonathon), Cold Fusion (room search), EMS (campus events), EZproxy (accessing library databases from off campus), file servers, and Listserv.” 

“This message did not mention the print server that is used to host manage our printers,” said Systems Librarian Nick Velkavrh in an email to the Quaker Campus. “That server also hosts the TutorTrac software used by CAAS.”

The Alert email went on to specify that “Services NOT [emphasis present in email] affected are the network and our Unix and hosted systems, including Banner, myWhittier, Moodle, phone service, and email.”

One of the most visible results of the malware intrusion was the temporary shutdown of the campus printing server. This made printing in the Wardman Library — the building used by many students who live on campus use to print — much slower. Students are usually able to print wirelessly through a service the campus uses called Papercut. However, when the print server went down, students were no longer able to communicate wirelessly with the printer. The servers remained down from Saturday morning until Tuesday afternoon. Library staff initially attempted to resolve the printing issues by having students carry files from the library computer to the printer using a flash drive. Staff later came up with a much more efficient method for wired printing.

“As a temporary solution,” wrote Velkavrh, “I connected a series of laptops directly to our printers in the library and worked with some of my library colleagues to help students print from these laptops while the campus print server was down.”

Velkavrh clarified that these issues are unrelated to previous technical problems that plagued library computers in January and February, specifying that those issues were due to problems with a Windows 10 update, and had nothing to do with malware. He also stated that the library occasionally has to resolve physical issues, writing, “Occasionally, worn down or broken components in our printers cause print quality issues. That has happened a couple of times in recent weeks and necessitated replacing certain parts, but that is routine, especially in a busy environment like ours.”

Velkavrh expressed gratitude for the work of Whittier’s IT department and the efforts of his fellow librarians. “I want to thank the IT Services staff for their hard work restoring campus services the past few days,” he wrote. “I want to let our library staff and student workers know how much I appreciate the time and energy they spent in answering questions, assisting our patrons, and helping me implement workarounds as we dealt with the server outages.”

Library Interim Director Mike Garabedian shared similar sentiments in his email to the QC. “I think students should feel heartened,” he wrote, “that when faced with a catastrophic print server failure, Library staff — and in particular Nick Velkavrh, Sam Alfrey, Sonia Chaidez, and Chris Mecklenburg — scrambled to find workarounds, provide guidance, and make sure students’ printing needs were met. That’s pretty extraordinary.”

Any further questions about the malware intrusion can be answered by emailing helpdesk@whittier.edu. The QC intends to print a follow-up article discussing the malware intrusion’s effects beyond the library in next week’s issue.