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Conficker hits US university; why it wouldn't happen in the UK

Conficker, potentially one of the most underestimated threats that face networks today, has spread to the University of Utah's computer network. The university, which also houses a medical school, two hospitals and vital systems for life support, spread to approximately 700 machines on campus.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor on

Conficker, potentially one of the most underestimated threats that face networks today, has spread to the University of Utah's computer network. The university, which also houses a medical school, two hospitals and vital systems for life support, spread to approximately 700 machines on campus.

Hype over the worm has been unprecedented, with it being one of the most talked about in computing history. The problem was, nobody was entirely sure what would happen on April 1st, when the worm was meant to receive further instructions on what to do next.

Chris Dawson covered this story a couple of days ago. The point I want to make, is this wouldn't have happened in the UK.

I have done extensive research into understanding the state of the US university networks, but there doesn't seem to be one. Here in the United Kingdom we have a shared resource, JANET, which spreads through every academic network this country has; college, universities, sometimes schools, and often research institutions. JANET is almost a living, breathing entity in the complexity and hierarchy it holds over academic institutions.

Without JANET, we wouldn't have half of the university resources or features we see today.

Every university has a big pipe of JANET goodness running into their campuses, being one of the main backbones to the Internet in the UK. But with the security and the technologies running it, it makes it incredibly, almost unthinkably impossible to spread malware through institutions.

Each individual university, as Chris points out, runs hundreds, if not thousands of security related protocols and policies to ensure viruses and other malware cannot spread. This would have prevented the spread of the worm.

No network is 100% secure, and my bet would be that individuals and human error would be the cause of security breaches, attacks and suchlike, due to the naivety of users and what they can and cannot do. As far as I know, no university in the United Kingdom has suffered an attack of Conficker.

I'm sure there will be many questions asked over why the University of Utah couldn't hold back such an attack.

If the British Parliament isn't safe from the Conficker worm, who is? The universities, for sure, because whether you like it or not, academia tops politics almost every time. Without the universities, knowledge wouldn't be power.

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