Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

Education Department
beefs up Web security

The Code Red worm did not
compromise any sensitive
student or personnel info

By Crystal Kua

The Department of Education is tightening computer security after office and school servers were infiltrated by the Code Red worm.

"Hacking is getting worse and worse on the Internet," said Jeffery Hara, a telecommunications specialist who manages all the Internet servers and services for the department.

No sensitive material, such as student or personnel information, was tampered with, he said. "It's been more of a nuisance," Hara said. "(Hackers) haven't done any serious damage. They haven't broken into our more sensitive material."

Officials also are rethinking what information should be placed on a public server.

The Code Red worm, and a more virulent strain known as Code Red II, affect only PC users running Windows NT and Windows 2000, along with Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS) Web software.

The worms spread through a hole in the IIS software running on Windows NT or 2000 machines.

Schools reported their Web site content had been changed and access to Web pages was denied, a typical symptom of the worm.

Hara said he put out an alert to schools about the worm and about the patch available for protection, but schools that were hit were typically those on summer break or those who had a technology coordinator on break.

Hara said that being a school technology coordinator is typically a teacher's part-time job, so monitoring worms and viruses may not be done continuously.

Department Webmaster David Eguchi put the following message on the Web site accompanied by an icon of a gas mask:

"Ugh! ... Because of recent hacker attacks and break-ins to numerous school and DOE office services, we have had to tighten security across the DOE network. Although we have tried to do this without impacting normal Web site access, some pages may no longer be available."

Eguchi wanted those who access the Web sites to know that they may not be able to get to those places because of the added security.

"Because of the firewall, it blocks certain servers," Eguchi said. "I didn't want people to think that it was broken."

The message, however, was taken off the Web site at the end of the day.

Hara said that because some servers had both public and internal information on them, Internet access may not be available to those sites.

Hara suggests that schools and offices not mix public and internal information on the same server if that server is vulnerable to being struck through a Web port.

Technicians worked over the weekend to make fixes to the servers and the Web sites, and the time involved in cleaning up the mess, was the main cost.

"There was no hardware cost," Hara said. "They worked over the weekend to restore Web sites from backup (storage) and clean up viruses and worms."

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