Federal Bytes

Dumb-criminal files

While the FBI is often loathe to reveal details of its investigations we had to chuckle at a recent tidbit gleaned from a meeting of the Computer System Security and Privacy Advisory Board. According to Susan Koeppen a trial attorney with the Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property section the FBI recently investigated an extortion threat directed at Microsoft Corp.'s Bill Gates.

It seems a not-so-clever criminal sent a diskette to Gates with an attached image containing the terms of the threat. The extortionist may have been trying to save a bit of money instead of buying a new diskette to carry out his scheme he simply erased files on a disk he already had.

His thriftiness cost him however because the FBI was able to recover the deleted files from the disk. One of these files contained the name and address of the man whom federal agents quickly arrested.

Koeppen did not miss an opportunity to push the FBI's agenda regarding encryption as part of this tale. Agents may have had a more difficult time tracking down the extortionist if he had used encryption she said. Somehow this particular criminal does not seem the type to employ such sophisticated tactics.

Bull session

After a recent speech for the Association for Federal Information Resources Management General Services Administrator David Barram noted that he had brought with him two of his top executives: Bob Woods of the Federal Telecommunications Service and chief information officer Joe Thompson. "I was worried that somebody might ask a question that I would not be able to B.S. about " Barram told the audience. "But I feel comfortable because I know that [Woods and Thompson] could."

Quiet time

The new Executive Briefing Center built by Computer Sciences Corp. in Northern Virginia is wired for voice video and data communications - perhaps a bit too well.

The building's videoconferencing rooms have multiple microphones so that each participant in a meeting can be easily heard as the session is transmitted to a remote location. And while the rooms serve a purpose they are not exactly good places for sensitive discussions. With this in mind CSC built in various alcoves that lack the high-tech paraphernalia that could pick up sidebar conversations.

This could be a case of innovative technology transfer. Did CSC borrow this idea from the "soundproof booth" concept that was popularized on game shows?

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