29 November 2005

SonyBMG’s “malware”

Threats to computer security may come from unexpected sources...

Probably the biggest IT story in the last few weeks has been the discovery of SonyBMG’s distribution of “rootkit” software on its audio CDs. The rootkit software installed itself secretly on PCs and was designed to manage copying of the music from the CD onto the computer. Designed as a copy protection system, it also inadvertently provided a new opportunity for third parties to install malware on computers infected with the rootkit: there are two known exploitations of the rootkit by malware developers. Removal of the rootkit damages Windows.

While Macintosh computers were not affected by the rootkit, SonyBMG had an alternative system that did work on Macs, but users had to agree to the software’s installation whereas with the PC version the installation was done automatically and the software hidden.

SonyBMG has since stopped shipping CDs with the rootkit and recalled all affected CDs. Microsoft will be releasing removal software as a part of its regular Windows Update service to remove the rootkit and repair infected systems.

Access to Divisional resources for other than assessable work

The University's resources are provided to support teaching, research and administration.

There are requests from some staff asking for students to have access to Divisional facilities and other resources for activities outside of Semester time for other than assessable work: one recent example is for students to have access to facilities to be able to produce ‘show reels’, and another for them to be able to use University resources to produce entries for a competition organised by the ABC.

The media production facilities of the Division are scare and expensive resources, procured and managed to assist academic staff teaching designated units. Student use of University resources outside units where the facilities are required for assessable work should not be permitted.

Prioritising the IT Loan

Basis for giving priority to bids for equipment funding.

When Executive considers the IT Loan bids they should endorse the principle that items purchased through the Infrastructure Fund should, where possible, be made available to the whole Division through the CRC or TSU.

The bids for video and still cameras in this year’s IT Loan bids should only be approved subject to the cameras being available for loan through the CRC or TSU, with demand timetabled through the Media Facilities Users Group (MFUG).


Get frequently given answers to those frequently asked questions.

Student Services, the Library, TEDS and ICT Services have got together to introduce RightNow (http://www.rightnow.com/), a knowledgebase of questions and answers initially being designed to provide current student information to University of Canberra students. RightNow Web from RightNow Technologies is a web-based, off-site solution hosted in the United States. Administrators at the University of Canberra will be able to enter questions and answers, monitor use of the site and receive queries that aren’t answered by the system via email. At least initially the system will be open for anyone on the internet, on- or off-campus, to use.

HR and Marketing are also investigating the system to see whether it has potential to support staff and potential students with answers to their queries.

Right Now is not ITIL compliant and isn’t seen as a candidate for a proposed IT knowledgebase using Computer Associates UniCenter Service Desk Knowledge Tools. It also will not be searchable using Panoptic, the University website search tool, and under current arrangements students will be charged for the internet traffic generated when they make enquiries of the system.

01 November 2005

Stanford on iTunes

Lectures on iTunes?

Stanford University in the USA and Apple have agreed to provide a number of audio services (like news, music, sports, and lectures) available for download from the iTunes Music Store. Anyone can download the materials, which are provided free: there is even some video content. The service is called Stanford on iTunes: see http://itunes.stanford.edu/ for further information.

More email issues

Missing some emails? This might explain it...

It appears that the University, through the IT Security Manager, has recently implemented a security measure that checks the email server responsible for sending any emails to @canberra.edu.au addresses before delivering them. If the check establishes the email server is “valid”, the email will be delivered. If however the server sending the email identifies itself with a name that is not properly registered on the internet, the email will be refused and “bounced” to the sender with instructions on how to correct the problem before emails to University recipients will be delivered.

The objective of the measure is to reduce the number of inappropriate emails getting to UC addresses (including spam, pornographic emails, viruses and other malware delivered along with emails, and so on: a laudable objective). Unfortunately there will be many “false-positives”: legitimate emails that are bounced if there is a problem with the registration of the sender’s email server. The Division in fact found out about the introduction of the measure when Canon Australia complained that their emails to us were being bounced.

Staff should be aware that the new measure is in place and that legitimate emails may not be getting through. If you are not receiving emails that you think you ought to be receiving, contact the sender (your emails to them should still be delivered) and ask them to call you if their messages are being bounced. Explain to them that the bounced email message contains instructions for their mail server administrator on how to fix their problem. The sender may also be able to use a different email server, one that is registered in a DNS as being of type ‘A’, to send their emails to the University.

No discussion was held with the Division about this change, and no warning of its implementation given. The comedu helpdesk would like to receive reports of any bounced emails to monitor the situation and if necessary take it up with ICT Services.

Email server issues

The TSU is aware of the problems with the Divisional email server at the moment.

Isaac, the Division’s new email server, is somewhat problematic at the moment: Macintosh users may see frequent requests for passwords to be re-entered, and Windows users may get frequent messages from Outlook indicating the email server is either on or off line at that particular time.

Efforts are being made with the help of BLIS and ICT Services Network team to isolate the problem, which appears to be related to excessive network traffic being generated by the email server.