The Circuit

NASA Breaches Own Security

NASA's Inspector General recently reported that sensitive documents were stored on a local-area network drive at a space agency facility and were accessible to all network users. The network drive was configured improperly for a new clerical worker. It was supposed to facilitate file transfers within the center. Instead, the clerical worker's files were dumped into a public drive used for sharing documents.

The data was "as public as a bulletin board," said one federal worker with knowledge of the incident. The IG report recommended that sensitive and other controlled information should not be saved or stored on network drives and that the information be protected in other ways too. Another lesson — always recheck the system before activating it. It did not appear there was a breach of security, but let's not tell "Mafiaboy" about this one!

Tax Headache? Don't Call Us

One of our loyal readers from Vienna, Va., writes that this year he tried to use the H & R Block online tax program, and it failed him miserably. Although our taxpaying friend intended to pay $2,000 in owed taxes electronically, the company's software interpreted the amount as $2.00, resulting in a substantial underpayment debited from his checking account. Our loyal reader tried valiantly to repair the error on April 17 — the day he first learned of the problem, but upon calling the IRS and being put on hold for more than an hour, he was told to write a check immediately. "They told me that I had to write a check to the IRS for the total amount of the tax due and put it in the mail. They also told me that the IRS was not extending the deadline for this payment, so it had to be postmarked by Monday night — the worst day of the year to have to go to the post office." Don't forget, the always friendly and ever helpful IRS wants to have 80 percent of all taxpayers filing online by 2008, but this kind of record just might just scare folks away.

Hoofing It for the Census

Census Director Kenneth Prewitt has listed many interesting jobs on his resume, from philanthropy to academia, but last week he disclosed a new one. In 1960, as a graduate student at Harvard University, he worked for the Census Bureau as an enumerator, walking door-to-door through Charlestown, a tough Boston neighborhood. He told enumerators gathered for a training session in Falls Church, Va., that he knows exactly what they will face — that doors will be shut in their faces and that people won't believe they are real Census workers. Nevertheless, he urged them to persevere and get that Census information. Who knows, an enumerator today, the Census director tomorrow?

Even the Pope Gets E-mail

Not to be outdone by the Vatican, which has its own e-mail address, the Rev. Daniel Coughlin, the new House chaplain and first Roman Catholic priest to hold the job, comes to Washington as computer-savvy as many of the House members he will be shepherding. The appointment of Coughlin was intended to quell the uproar when House Republicans passed over another Catholic priest recommended by a search committee in favor of a Presbyterian minister. Coughlin, the vicar for priests in the Chicago archdiocese, has a computer and knows how to use it, according to Linda, the receptionist in the chaplain's office. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to pry his e-mail address out of her.

There may be some rumblings in religious circles about the use of cyberspace. In his Easter address, the Archbishop of Canterbury denounced the material trappings of the " society."

And the new Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev. Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, talked of the "temptations and distractions" of a business society, the BBC reported. Coughlin, who has already gotten a crash course in Washington hardball, is not taking press calls about computers or anything else these days.

Have a tip? Send it to [email protected].


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