ASG decides to ‘bite the bullet,’ lets NUIT take over server

Nitesh Srivastava

The Associated Student Government server, which was down for more than two weeks during Fall Quarter, is scheduled to have its duties transferred to a new server run by Northwestern University Information Technology later this month.

The ASG server hosts student group Web sites, ASG’s Web site and online services, such as the ASG Online Restaurant Guide.

The transition to a new server comes after a prolonged outage in October, when a hacker compromised the ASG server, defacing some student group Web sites and causing malfunctions in the HereAndNow Web site.

During the outage, all student group Web sites were inaccessible. Leslie Gittings, a McCormick junior and webmaster of the Rainbow Alliance Web site, said she was upset that the downed server cost her group Internet traffic.

“We get about 40 to 50 hits a day, a lot of people from multiple countries, weird places you’d never think of,” she said.

Because students voted for Homecoming royalty at a booth in Norris University Center rather than online, fewer students voted overall than in previous years, said Jessica Lowe, a Communication junior and Homecoming 2005 Royalty co-chairwoman in October.

Although Gittings said Rainbow Alliance did not lose money from the outage, other student groups have historically lost revenue because of problems with the ASG server.

There was another outage in December 2004 when another hacker compromised the server for a month. The incident cost Dance Marathon more than $10,000 in revenue from online visitors during Winter Break, according to ASG Technology Director Michael Jurewitz.

Administrators responded to that break-in by patching the existing server. After the problems this past October, they decided to use a different strategy.

“We could’ve patched it up, but we just decided to bite the bullet and make a system that was stable and secure,” Jurewitz, a Weinberg senior, said. “That’s what we were doing for most of Fall Quarter, which is why the server was down for so long.”

Under the administration of NU Information Technology, the new server hopefully will have fewer security problems than the student-run ASG server, he said.

“I inherited the server last April,” he said. “When I got a hold of it, my first inclination was ‘Oh, dear Lord, there are so many things wrong with this.’ This is a job that is beyond the scope of what a student is able to provide in terms of keeping the server up-to-date and secure.”

But Jurewitz said he hoped to maintain a high level of flexibility with the new server.

“We want it to be as feature-full as possible,” he said, referring to some creative touches student groups put in Web sites. “We don’t want to be so plain as to limit some of these neat things, but that has some security risks. But at some level I’m trying to err on the side of letting student groups be creative and hope that we have enough security.”

Reach Nitesh Srivastava at [email protected]