The Circuit

Where's Gauss Going?

Word on the street is that Rear Adm. John Gauss, who is retiring as head of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, is in line to be the next chief information officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs. If only we had a dollar for every "No comment" or "Don't know" we've received in the past two weeks about this move.

But stay tuned. VA Secretary Anthony Principi swears to get things moving at the VA, and the CIO job might just be filled by the time this gets into print.

Delete Before Opening

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) has been outspoken about the need for improved federal information security practices. And he kept talking even after one of his own staff members fell victim to the most common security mistake, opening an infected e-mail message. The staff member spread the "homepage" virus — a worm that brings a user to a porn site and then e-mails the site out to everyone in the user's address book — to people in Washington, D.C., and the senator's home state.

Although news organizations reported that constituents received the e-mail, they did not know all the details, Bennett said last week at a Washington security conference. Information support staff tracking down the unlucky recipients found that elementary schools across Utah were among the addressees.

We're sure Bennett's staff is getting a refresher course on not opening unexpected e-mail attachments.

The SEC Wants You

Because the Internet has changed investing, the Securities and Exchange Commission is using an online survey to find out how investors are using electronic media to make investment decisions. "As technology continues to transform the securities markets, I'm asking investors to share their experience and expectations with us," said SEC Acting Chairwoman Laura Unger.

The survey, available on the World Wide Web at, takes about 10 minutes to complete, and it will be available until July 1. It asks investors about their knowledge and experience, their expectations of brokerage firms, their trading frequencies, and how they assess risk. The SEC has hired InfoQuest Technologies Inc., Harrisburg, Pa., to conduct the survey and tabulate the responses. Information, however, will be confidential and anonymous, and the SEC noted that the information would not be used for any other purpose. Any investor too timid to complete it online can fill out a paper version.

A Kinder, Gentler IRS

The Internal Revenue Service is trying hard to become even more user friendly. Terry Lutes, head of the IRS' Electronic Tax Administration, said at a recent conference that the IRS is about to award a contract to redesign its Web page to make it friendlier for visitors. He also said he is meeting with Madison Avenue executives to come up with ways to convince taxpayers that online filing is safe, secure and worth doing. This comes at a time when electronic filing fell short of its goals for the 2001 tax-filing season.

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