The Tomato

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New program encourages safe computing practices among students

Photo by Tina Wallace

Health Services will launch a new program in January 2014 to combat virtual illnesses.

In a press release, the University of Ottawa announced that Health Sciences designed the new program, called Students Experiencing Technology Safely (SEXTS), to raise awareness about safe computing practices and to help prevent the spread of virtual viruses.

SEXTS was developed in response to a recent increase in the number of students seeking treatment for preventable computer viruses, and those seeking counselling for the stigma associated with these viruses.  According to Health Services, the average wait time for students suffering from a technology-related infection at the walk-in clinic is currently more than 37 hours.

“By the time students meet the doctor, the damage is done,” said Dr. P.C. Mac, the doctor in charge of the new program.  “In addition to dealing with the infected hard drive, for example, we also have to treat Facebook withdrawal and Twitter shakes. We need to take a more proactive approach.”

With both an educational and preventative component, SEXTS is seen as a positive step to ensuring students compute safely.

“Obviously in this day and age, it’s unrealistic to expect university students to commit to one device,” said one Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) representative.

“We do encourage students who are virtually active to take preventative measures and also to test regularly for viruses and other malware.  SEXTS is a great step forward and the SFUO supports the program 100 per cent.”

However, the program arrived too late for some. Tech Nick is a student suffering from hook-up regret who could have been helped by SEXTS.

“I wish I had had the courage to ask my friend to get tested before I inserted my USB into his laptop,” said Nick. “Friends don’t give friends viruses.  Friends don’t spyware on each other. But I didn’t ask him to get tested and now I’m dealing with the consequences.”

When asked to give advice to students who are just starting out and experimenting with various technological arrangements, Dr. P.C. Mac suggested, “Don’t put anything in your emails you wouldn’t want your mother to see.  Also, don’t email while drunk.  Ever.”

After the program is launched, students will be able to get a free, confidential test for their laptops and other devices by making an appointment with Health Services.