University tries to stop flow of viruses with free software

The Office of Information Technologies (OIT) recently purchased a campuswide site license for the Norton Antivirus software. All students can get a free copy to use on school or personal computers as long as they remain a student.

The antivirus software is available for all current students, on- or off-campus, and may be installed on home computers and laptops. Norton Antivirus is already installed on faculty/staff and lab computers campuswide. The OIT hopes that distributing the program to the general student population will help slow the flow of viruses into the PSU computer network.

According to a staff member at the OIT help desk, “the university just got fed up with dealing with viruses. It was costing us more in manpower (to fight the viruses) than the site license would.”

Right now, five viruses are posted on the User Support Services Web site as current known threats, and variants have hit Portland State on an almost monthly basis for years, with effects ranging from minor annoyances to major network outages.

Students may continue to use the software as long as they remain registered at PSU and may not share it with non-students. Upon graduation or absence for more than one term, the software must be uninstalled and surrendered.

Norton Antivirus is a powerful virus-blocking software program. Many antivirus programs work based on having a current list of all known viruses and then flagging those files if they appear as attachments or downloads. Norton, in particular, requires users to periodically download current “virus definitions” from its Web site, which are free.

Another way to detect viruses is to monitor key files on a user’s computer that aren’t supposed to be modified under normal circumstances. Viruses may attempt to edit those files in order to send information out from the user’s computer, so any program trying to access those files is flagged as a possible virus.

The free antivirus software is a steal for students – full versions of Norton Antivirus retail for up to $80, and other antivirus programs by McAfee and Symantec are available at a similar price.

There are several ways to acquire a copy of the software. Free versions are available for download online on the PSU Webmail Web site,, and the User Support Services Web site, Students may also bring their own blank CD or Zip disk to copy if their computer isn’t connected to the Internet. Copies of the program on CD are also available for $1 at the University Market in Smith Memorial Student Union.

The OIT Help Desk Web page ( has excellent instructions on installing the software, or you can call (503) 725-HELP (4357). The help desk is located in the basement of SMSU, Room 18, for computer-related questions.