Anne Arundel schools thwart spread of `Chernobyl' virus

Officials call for delay until computers `cleaned'

April 28, 1999|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County school officials got the system's central computers back up and running yesterday, after thwarting a computer virus that had threatened to destroy dozens of school computers across the county.

Many schools' computers are still down, especially those at smaller schools, though officials hope they will be checked out and "cleaned" by the end of the week.

Eight computers hit by the Chernobyl virus initially, however, might be gone for good. Technicians were able to save much of the information stored on the hard drives, but the computers are, in effect, telling themselves not to restart, said Robert C. Leib, director of business services for the schools.

School officials shut down more than 7,000 personal computers Monday after technicians found the virus on those first eight machines. The virus attacks and decodes computer hard drives.

Technicians searched the Internet yesterday for information on Chernobyl. By midmorning they had developed an antidote that used three anti-virus programs.

"If we can locate [the virus] and get to it before someone executes a program that has it, we can save that computer," Leib said. "But you won't know you have it until you try to open something that is carrying it."

School officials instructed people not to touch their computers until they are cleaned.

The situation would have been worse, Leib said, had it not been for a computer technician at the schools' computer "help desk," who had read warnings about Chernobyl and recognized the symptoms early, when people called saying their computers weren't working.

The virus, believed to have originated in Taiwan, was timed to strike yesterday on the 13th anniversary of the Russian nuclear disaster.

Administrators and teachers scrambled to adjust yesterday to a day devoid of computers.

Schools spokeswoman Jane Doyle said administrators for the first time in years took attendance by hand and wrote letters in longhand to parents.

Pub Date: 4/28/99

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