Curing Your Computer

by Stephanie Bailey

Horizon Reporter

Monday afternoon, downstairs in the Heiner Center, two laptops and a desktop computer are being repaired by the IT Professionals of Tomorrow. Two members of the club, Kyle White and Mike Painter are fixing student and staff personal computers.

     The IT students are able to help with virus removal, installations, and repairs, as well as provide education and advice on personal computers. As long as the disclaimer for service is signed, they are even able to replace parts of the computer that the student has bought.

     Ana Archer could not log on to her laptop so she brought it to the help desk to “redo everything because of a virus.” She had seen the sign upstairs in the Heiner Center advertising the help desk. “It was either bring it here or spend a lot of money somewhere else,” she said.

     White analyzed the problem. “Her computer came in with what’s called a ransom virus,” he said explaining that the virus takes over and will not let the operator do anything. It took the IT students several days to fix her computer. The process involved first putting the computer into safe mode and then removing all of the information that she wanted to save. Then they completely wiped the computer.

     This service has been available for several years at Whatcom Community College and is still the only school in Washington that is offering this.

     Previously, the help desk was held in Laidlaw, but is now outside of HNR 105 every Monday and Tuesday. The hours have been extended from 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. which has helped them to be able to accomplish more. “We find that people don’t find us as easy,” in the new location, White said, since they are now downstairs and at the end of a hallway. But he recalled that the previous location in Laidlaw got noisy and congested because they were at an intersection.

     One advantage of Laidlaw that is lacking in Heiner Center is furniture. “We need chairs and another table,” said White, who had three computers that barely fit on the club’s single table.

     Participation in this program is on a volunteer basis for the other members of the group, but White is receiving two credits for providing this help, so he is there each week. Painter, who is also at the help desk every week, is writing a program so that other schools can learn to organize this resource for their students and staff.

     “It’s always a surprise,” White said about the types of problems that he sees “A lot of viruses. One [computer] today wouldn’t do anything. It was a brick.” As many as 10 people bring their computers to them on the days that they run the help desk, but since they are limited on time and space, this number varies.

     Among the typical viruses and slow computer problems that are brought to the help desk are those that can’t be fixed. “A lot of these problems can’t be solved,” White said, including problems regarding password recovery and pirated software.

     The IT Professionals of Tomorrow will be competing in the sixth National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in SeaTac March 25 to 27. Eight members of the club will work on a team as a mock company against other two year colleges to defend their network against the red team, hackers.

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