GW is taking steps to prevent unsolicited mass e-mails from entering its network after the GW Webmail system was overwhelmed by an onslaught of “spam” during the final weeks of the fall semester.
A special program was written to enter the inboxes of students who had received the chain letter and delete it before it could do further damage, said Brad Reese, director of the Computer Information and Resource Center.
Dealing with the mass e-mail requires a great deal of staff time – in writing and implementing the program and redirecting resources to combat the problem, he said.
Fixing the problem and widespread loss of Webmail access during the repairs make the total cost difficult to calculate, Reese said.
“There is no way to tell the true cost to the University, but it was large,” he said.
Students involved with the mass e-mailing received warnings about the harm caused, and several students involved were called into the CIRC office to clean out e-mail boxes. Several students also were referred to Student Judicial Services, Reese said.
To prevent spammers from accessing GW e-mail addresses, CIRC no longer offers the e-mail address directory feature on Webmail, which enabled GW users to find GW e-mail addresses, Reese said.
“We feel that this happened because of people taking advantage of the directory feature,” Reese said.
Students agree to the computer systems and services Code of Conduct when they use Webmail accounts. The code requires they not put “excessive strain on any computing facilities.”
But Reese said the problem in December partially may have been caused because students were ignorant of its stipulations, so CIRC has added a reminder on the Webmail login page.
“The excuse of `Oh, I didn’t know about it’ just doesn’t apply,” Reese said.