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ISC: Deployment of New Virus Scanning Service for Selected E-mail Domains

We are all aware of the increasing prevalence of viruses and worms that have potential to disrupt our network and adversely impact our own personal use of e-mail. Furthermore, in the event that our own e-mail account is contaminated, remedial efforts can be time-consuming and constrain our ability to communicate with colleagues both within and outside of Penn, sometimes for days. ISC--in wide consultation with users and the IT community--believes the free flow of communication can be enhanced if we can more readily identify and limit viruses before they actually appear in our inbox.

Therefore, ISC Networking and Telecommunications is pleased to announce a virus scanning service for selected Penn e-mail domains that will go into effect the first week of November. All e-mail that is sent to and sent from users in the admissions,, dental, design, dolphin,, and pobox domains will be scanned for viruses by an off-site vendor. This vendor uses a sophisticated technology which promises to be highly effective at identifying viruses while adhering to the University's policies on security and privacy. (For Penn's Policy on Privacy in the Electronic Environment, see The decision to deploy this service was reached in consultation with IT Directors for the affected domains, as well as with General Counsel, the Chief Privacy Officer and the Information Security Officer.

How Scanning Will Work

Messages that have been identified as containing a virus are quarantined on the off-site server for 30 days and then are automatically discarded. Neither the sender nor the recipient will receive notification about messages that have been quarantined. Summary reports (containing only address of sender, intended recipient and type of virus) of messages which have been quarantined are sent to ISC Networking and Telecommunications and our staff has the ability to retrieve a quarantined message during the quarantine period should it ever become necessary. Copies of the reports are sent to the account administrator for each domain. Users who have concerns that a message may have been mistakenly quarantined should contact their local support provider or account administrator.

ISC Networking and Telecommunications acknowledges that automatic discarding of e-mail messages without notice violates the normal e-mail delivery processes as specified by Internet standard RFC 2821, but the spread of computer viruses has become so rampant and so destructive that we are compelled to try to protect our users.

While messages will be scanned to help stem the spread of computer viruses; virus scanning will not catch all viruses and users are always advised to exercise caution when opening e-mail file attachments. Nor does scanning replace the need to have desktop anti-virus software installed and updated. Viruses and trojans can infect a computer through means other than e-mail such as file sharing, Internet download, and operating system or application vulnerabilities.

We do not anticipate any noticeable delay in the flow of e-mail with this proactive approach to minimizing virus attacks. Our provider states that 99% of messages will be received by the intended recipient within 30 seconds of arrival on our provider's e-mail server and that delays longer than 10 minutes will occur only under rare circumstances.

Our provider is obligated by contract to adhere to Penn's Privacy Policies. They reserve the right to utilize any virus-related content of an e-mail or its attachments solely for the purposes of:

* maintaining and improving the performance and the integrity of the service;

* observing, studying and/or testing the functioning of the service; and

* making available to affiliates any virus-related content from an e-mail that is not classified as confidential, solely for the purpose of enhancing the service and protecting against viruses.

Prior to using any virus related content of an e-mail or its attachments for the purposes of complying with any regulatory or legal requirements, our provider will provide at least two business days notice to the University of Pennsylvania. That notice will be used to determine whether and what virus-related content needs to be disclosed to law enforcement authorities.

For more information, see Pobox users may also wish to contact their local support provider or account administrator.

-- Robin H. Beck, Vice President, Information Systems and Computing



  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 10, October 28, 2003