updated 06:13 pm EDT, Sat May 17, 2014
Microsoft SCCM ordered to format, reinstall Windows 7 computers
Emory University, a higher-education institution based in Atlanta, had a spectacular failure of protocol earlier this week. Using Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager technology, a Windows 7 deployment image was accidently sent to all of the University's Windows 7 machines, including laptops, desktops, and servers on May 14. The image, when completely acquired by served computers, launched with a repartition and reformat set of tasks, erasing the contents of all the machines the image was sent to.
Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager is a systems management software suite, designed to manage large groups of computers running Windows, Windows Embedded, OS X, Linux or UNIX, as well as various mobile operating systems such as Windows Phone, Symbian, iOS and Android. Configuration Manager provides remote control, patch management, software distribution, operating system deployment, network access protection and hardware and software inventory. Used improperly, the tool can cause mass havoc across an entire organization.
As soon as the accident was discovered by Emory IT staff, the SCCM server was powered off. However, by that time, the SCCM server itself had been repartitioned and reformatted. Following the SCCM format, the university IT department was left without preferred methods for mass deployment of images to remote computers. Many devices were restored by Norton Ghost, LANDesk server, and other manual methods, and were greeted with limited success in recovering all data.
The university has since restored the SCCM system, nearly a week after the initial incident. Electronista spoke with a source inside Emory, and was told that a single point of failure led to the problem, which accounted for thousands of man-hours restoring the systems. Additionally, isolated problems will continue to crop up with configurations and permissions for some time to come, and will require "several hundred hours" of hands-on work to rectify.