Sidebar: Worldport Help Desk Preempts Virus Attacks

United Parcel Service Inc. can't afford computer viruses that could cripple the IT systems that are key to the operation of its Worldport hub, so the company works to hunt viruses and worms down before an attack, according to Greg Echsner, Worldport's technical support group (TSG) manager.

The TSG team "actively monitors [security and hacker] newsgroups to see if there are any new viruses" and acts quickly when they discover a new one, says Steve Weir, distributed systems manager at Worldport.

When the Blaster worm hit earlier this year, Weir says, Phil Johnston, a TSG technician, came in to work at 4 a.m. after spotting news of the worm on newsgroups while working at home. This preemptive approach also protected Worldport systems from getting hit by the Slammer virus, Weir says, which did infect other UPS operations in the Louisville area.

While the TSG moves quickly to install antivirus patches on its systems, Weir says they first certify and validate the patches before installation.

The TSG also operates a support desk, which provides first-level support either by phone or on-site for the entire hub and ramp area. The support desk can quickly dispatch a technician by phone or two-way radio, with six technicians assigned to six plant zones to ensure quick response. These technicians can do board-level swaps, if necessary, to return a piece of hardware to service, Echsner says.

The TSG also performs scheduled maintenance on printers -- something that other enterprises would put very low on a "must do" list. But the 500 Worldport thermal printers are used to print out labels for individual packages as well as bags containing small letters and are viewed as critical pieces of equipment. A bad printer could result in unreadable labels, yet labels are key to the entire sorting process. "Clarity is essential," Echsner says.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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