Federal Bytes

Locked up

The Justice Department has determined that computer systems that operate federal prison cell doors are Year 2000-compliant. So, despite scenarios depicting chaos at the turn of the century, at least federal prisoners will be safely tucked away, said Mary Ellen Condon, DOJ's director of information management and security.

Some unhappy FBI agents and U.S. attorneys could have found themselves locked up if a date-code flaw in the computer systems operating DOJ elevators had not been found. Condon said these elevators would have stopped wherever they happened to be at midnight Dec. 31, 1999. The problem has been fixed, Condon said.

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E-mail smell test

If you're worried about spies in your e-mail, consider this advice from National Institutes of Health employee Robert Lagas in the agency's newsletter: "NIH e-mail messages are normally transmitted over unsecured data lines, and all e-mail messages are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests and official investigations. A good rule to follow for e-mail messages: If you would be embarrassed to see it on the front page of the Washington Post, don't send it.''

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Internet Rumors Dept.

It's an alarming bit of news to read if you're a veteran: "The president of the United States has recently signed into law a bill that affects all veterans. This law states, in effect, that if a veteran has not registered at a Veterans Affairs Hospital since Oct. 1, 1996, then on Oct. 1, 1998, he or she will lose all medical benefits for life."

But, despite being spread widely via the Internet, the bit of news is wrong, and the VA has put its World Wide Web site (www.va.gov) to work to set the record straight.

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How to beat hackers?

According to an announcement on the General Services Administration's Web page, the agency is working with the Federal Webmasters Forum and Secure Computing Corp. to present "an encore performance of an exciting seminar you won't want to miss!" The seminar, "Information Security: Current Threats and Best Practices to Secure the Internet," will inform attendees "about the most current hacker attack methodologies and how you can protect your agency's valuable data, resources and reputation," according to GSA. One has to worry about such an event scheduled for April Fools' Day. This sounds suspiciously like an elaborate prank. You can find out by showing up at 8 a.m. April 1 at the American Institute of Architects Building, Washington, D.C. But don't say we didn't warn you.

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