Student Honored for Defense of Computer Network
A University of Colorado at Boulder student named Student Employee of the Year was cited for special praise last month by university Chancellor Richard Bynny for his role in preventing the university’s network from being compromised by the invasive “Blaster” worm last fall.
It took Davis Chen 36 hours of last-minute computer programming to rescue the school’s network from serious harm when the worm created an operating system vulnerability to allow hackers complete access to infected computers. A senior biology major and a member of CU-Boulder’s Information Technology Services staff, Chen led the university’s effort to prevent the worm from spreading just as students returned for the start of the fall 2003 semester.
“It was a big problem. We have departments at CU-Boulder with sensitive data that shouldn’t be leaked, and the worm could’ve compromised all of that. There was a lot more at stake than a bunch of money,” Chen says.
CU officials say Chen’s expertise did save CU-Boulder a lot of money — particularly in light of what happened at other campuses. The CU-Boulder ITS staff, including Chen, spent only $9,000 and 465 hours to repair about 265 computers — the smallest impact felt of 19 research universities polled in an informal survey published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. In contrast, Stanford University spent $806,000 and took 18,420 hours to repair almost one-third of its entire campus network.
The survey reported an average expense of nearly $300,000 at the 19 schools infected by the worm.
CU-Boulder’s success in dealing with the Blaster worm was recognized at schools around the nation. Several requested Chen’s solution and instructions on how to implement his program on their own networks.
“I’m thrilled that Davis was recognized as the campus’ Student Employee of the Year,” said Dennis Maloney, executive director of ITS. “His efforts with regard to our response to the Blaster worm showed a lot of innovation. He very quickly came up with a creative solution to help the campus mitigate what could have been a disaster.”
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