Oct. 7, 2002 -- This week's Cybershake takes a look at how one school is pushing classrooms toward a paperless future. Plus, we note why security experts are still worried over the latest computer worm.
Course Load Of a Different Sort
Remember those good old days of school with the mimeograph machines and purple ink? Times have changed, and computers have changed the way kids learn lessons. And in some classrooms, technology is bringing the end to handwritten notes.
Administrators at the St. Bartholomew School in Louisville, Ky., are turning three of their junior high classrooms paperless. Using a $61,800 grant from the Catholic Education Foundation, 60 students will be given handheld computers to use in class and when doing homework.
School administrators hope that the move to electronic devices and the Internet will help streamline and organize learning for students.
"We'll be able to do all our subjects without pencils and we'll have reminders so we won't forget about our homework," says Alex Goffner, a 12-year-old student who is part of the handheld computer program.
Students participating in the program can't exactly ditch their book bags, since most class subjects will be based on traditional textbooks lessons. But the load they carry will be getting lighter.
Science classes for those in the handheld computer program will be completely electronic. Instead of books, lessons will be based on Internet research and classroom experiments. If the all-digital approach produces good results, school administrators say other classes could soon scrap textbooks as well.
Students aren't the only ones excited about the program.
Teacher Ross Carroll says: "It's going to change the way the kids do everything — from class work to assignments to where things are stored — no longer in notebooks and folders but on network folders on the computer."
— Michael Barr, ABCNEWS
A Bear of a Computer Bug
Internet security firms are sounding renewed and more urgent alarms against the latest computer worm called BugBear. Although it was discovered last Monday, experts say this malicious piece of software is still infecting computers worldwide.
Much like the Klez worm of earlier this year, BugBear spreads among computers using a variety of means. But April Goosetree, virus research manger for security firm McAfee.com, says its most notorious infection method is by e-mail.
Unlike other so-called mass e-mailing worms, BugBear doesn't send the same message every time.
"There's about 35 or 40 different subject lines it could [use]," says Goosetree. "They all look very innocent. It might look like something that a friend might send you."
If the bug arrives on a PC that uses Microsoft's Outlook mail program, it could take advantage of a known flaw in the software to automatically send itself out to all the e-mail addresses listed in the software.
Goosetree also says the worm will attempt to turn off any anti-virus programs and other protective software on the infected computer. But more worrisome, she says, is the hidden program BugBear leaves behind on an infected computer.
"It also drops a backdoor 'Trojan' that has the ability to collect keystrokes,'" says Goosetree.
That means the bug has the ability to collect any typed information — including credit card numbers if you've purchased anything online, bank account numbers and passwords.
Anti-virus makers such as McAfee, Symantec, MessageLabs, Sophos and TrendMicro have all released updated software and tools to help detect, remove and defend computers against future BugBear attacks.
And experts like Goosetree continue to state the obvious: "You need to make sure you've got the latest anti-virus update, and that will protect your system 100 percent right there."
— Larry Jacobs, ABCNEWS
Cybershake is produced for ABCNEWS Radio by Andrea J. Smith.