What does "compromised" mean?

"Compromised" is a nice way of saying that someone or something has maliciously broken into your computer without your knowledge or permission. It means that you can't trust the integrity of any file (program, document, spreadsheet, image, etc.) on your computer. You can't find out what's been done to your computer files without an exact "before" copy to compare them with, and you probably won't ever know what's been done with your personal information, including your passwords, or where they've been sent.

Why should I care?

If your computer was involved in a Denial-of-Service attack without your knowledge, it probably has robot ("bot") programs installed which intruders can activate at any time ("Denial of Service" refers to bringing down a system or network by attacking it). Attack programs are usually hidden inside other programs (a "Trojan horse") or in hidden directories, or are disguised with "nondescript names. Their install often involves changes to your system that make them very difficult, or impossible to remove.

Most malware include other programs such as keystroke loggers (everything you type into your keyboard is sent to a remote site, including passwords, account "numbers, web sites, and messages), remote administration tools (for the intruder to login and steal files or launch attacks from your system), or file servers (to share copyright software, music, and movies from your machine, at your risk of liability instead of theirs). You could end up being a victim of identity theft, or you could be sued for copyright infringement.

New viruses and worms use multiple methods to spread, such as through e-mail, file sharing, web site links, or un-patched and unsecured computers. Antivirus software may or may not be able to detect the presence of such a program, and may not be able to repair it. It depends on whether operating system programs have been altered.

Electronic mail "spamming" refers to the practice of flooding the Internet with an unsolicited electronic mail note addressed to hundreds or thousands of recipients, in an attempt to force the message on people who would not otherwise choose to receive it. It has also been called "junk e-mail". Some definitions of spam indicate that the messages are for the purpose of commercial advertising, which is, for the most part, true, but not always. Find more information on how to handle email spam.

These types of threats to the Internet must be eradicated before you can reconnect to the campus network.

What should I do?

If your computer is infected, it must be reformatted and its operating system reinstalled from scratch in order to gain access to the university wireless (eduroam) or to the ResNet system again. 

If you’re a student using a personal computer, you can reformat the computer on your own or request reformatting by the ITS Help Desk. If you choose to reformat your own computer, please notify the ITS Help Desk to have your port enabled. If your computer has not been reformatted correctly and your port is disabled again, the ITS Help Desk is required to reformat your computer before you can reconnect to the campus network.

If you’re a staff member, faculty member, or student using a computer owned or managed by the university, contact your local IT support for help. If you’re a staff or faculty member using a personal computer, you may need to reformat the computer on your own.

If your computer has been disabled from ResNet because it is compromised DO NOT connect it to the wireless. This will cause your machine to be disabled on the University Wireless network (eduroam). Please call the ITS Help Desk if you have further questions or concerns at 319-384-HELP (4357).

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Last updated: 
April 17, 2023