Federal Bytes

Phantom viruses

David Carter of Michigan State University and Andra Katz of Wichita State University, writing in the December issue of the FBI's "Law and Enforcement Bulletin," detailed the dangers of several computer viruses named after politicians, celebrities or famous institutions. But there's one problem: These viruses don't exist; they're only jokes that have been circulated on the Internet.

The authors described several phony viruses as real threats, including the "Clinton" virus, which is designed to infect programs but which eradicates itself when it can't decide which programs to infect; the "Gingrich" virus, which randomly converts word processing files into legalese often found in contracts; and the "lecture" virus, which deliberately destroys all data on the hard drive and then scolds the user for not catching it.

However, the newsletter does not list a number at the FBI for alert users to call when they come across a virus that can't decide which programs to infect. There's no telling how many Clinton viruses are out there.

On-line legalese

The General Services Administration last month established a World Wide Web page to aid federal employees and private citizens conducting legal and regulatory research. The tool, dubbed Fedlaw (legal.gsa.gov), includes more than 1,400 links to resources such as the House of Representatives' Internet Law Library and the Cornell University Legal Information Institute.

It's a slow week when....

Your office wasn't the only one where there wasn't much going on over the holidays. Last month, GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy ran out of news to post on its "Weekly Top Five Events in Federal Information Technology" Web page (itpolicy.gsa.gov/mkm/top5.htm) even before Christmas.

"This week's top five contains only four items," GSA helpfully noted following its list for the week of Dec. 23, just in case readers had dipped into the holiday egg nog once too often to notice. There was no "top five" at all last week, presumably because the movers and shakers who decide these things, along with their staffs who make them happen, were on vacation.

Which raises a question: If there's no one around to get the news, is it really news?

New Year's resolution

If you're having trouble coming up with New Year's resolutions, here's one that's probably achievable.Just click your heels together three times and say: "I resolve to be prepared for the Year 3000 problem as the next millennium approaches." Isn't that easier than losing those 10 pounds you gained?


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