June 1, 2009 (GBN News): Cyber security experts are warning the public of a potentially devastating and widespread new computer virus. The virus has been dubbed the “ARIS computer worm”, after the $80 million computer system used by the NY City Department of Education.
The DOE has just rolled out a web site where parents can use ARIS to directly access information including their children’s test scores and attendance. However, it has been reported by a number of parents that when they log on, they see only a message saying “The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later.”
A security expert familiar with the situation told GBN News that once this message is displayed, the worm takes over the user’s entire address book and emails test scores to everyone in it. The virus then continues replicating itself, each time increasing the scores, until it reaches the web sites of the major city daily newspapers, where the now vastly inflated test scores are reported out to the public.
GBN News spoke to J. Fredrick Runson, head of the Computer Science Department at Manhattan University, and an expert on educational cyber threats. “This certainly would explain why the public has been inundated lately by reports of large increases in test scores,” Dr. Runson told GBN News. “The question is, what sort of nefarious characters would design a virus like this? Obviously, it must be people with a major stake in convincing the public that test scores are going up big time. But whoever it is, now that the computer security people are onto them, they’ll have to somehow destroy any evidence that they’ve tampered with the system, or they could be in big trouble.”
A DOE spokesperson denied reports that Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein were seen this morning dumping computer hard drives into the Hudson River. “They were just out fishing together,” said the spokesperson. “They threw back some real whoppers.”