Federal Bytes

Russian to keep up

The Defense Special Weapons Agency recently entered into cooperative agreements with commercial enterprises in the former Soviet Union for work related to nuclear weapons disposal and reduction treaties. But it seems the Defense Finance and Accounting Service can learn something about electronic commerce from the developing capitalist enterprises in the former communist state.

According to DSWA, serious delays have been experienced because DFAS has been mailing hard-copy checks to these Soviet companies, only to find out that Russian enterprises only take electronic payments.

Forget the arms race; we're losing the EC race!

***

Hacker's delight

The "problem" with hacked Web sites is that any insightful messages left by the hackers are usually "cleaned up" by the site owners before we casual Internet observers get a chance to see them. That situation has been rectified on www.focus-asia.com/home/rootaccess/index.htm, which includes images of hacked pages of NASA, the CIA and all three military services, among other nonfederal subjects.

Although some of the hacks linked to this site are X-rated, all of them contain some sort of political message, usually summed up by the words "Free Kevin Mitnick."

But whether you think these perpetrators are heroes or criminals, you can't ignore them. As hacker "Noid" wrote in March on the Army Communications-Electronics Command's Web site: "This is were it happens [sic]. Where some of the most advanced U.S. Army software is developed. This hack is once again proving that any network, no matter how large, is exploitable."

Eyeing a new market. Seems as though everybody is getting into the computer business. Bausch & Lomb— yes, the contact lens people— last week demonstrated for the Internal Revenue Service its new PC Magni-Viewer, which is a computer screen magnification system.

A spokesman for the company said folks at the IRS seemed interested in the product, which the spokesman said magnifies on-screen information up to 175 percent.

He added that the company already has sold some systems to the Library of Congress.

One potential problem we foresee for the company: If this product is able to relieve eye strain, it could significantly eat into the sales of all the Bausch & Lomb eyedrops bought by federal computer users.

Maybe the company should rethink its strategy.

***

Spokesman's voice: MIA

If you want to get some information out of the Department of Veterans Affairs' public affairs office, now might not be the best time. A source there told an FCW reporter that the office has been so swamped by calls from media working on articles inspired by the new "Saving Private Ryan" movie that at least one public affairs officer has started to go hoarse.

It seems reporters are trying to find vets who had experiences similar to those of the soldiers portrayed in the movie, or they're trying to find out what types of programs the VA has in place to help vets cope with their war memories— which of course creates problems for reporters working on less significant articles on subjects such as the department's Year 2000 efforts.

Tripped up. The presence of a tape recorder makes anyone a little edgy, but in the current atmosphere in Washington, D.C., even information technology professionals have their guard up.

An FCW reporter who recently asked a source whether she could tape an interview was told, "Sure, as long as you don't give the tape to Linda Tripp."

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