[RC5] TVA workers reprimanded for alien search

blitz blitz at macronet.net
Tue Jun 19 07:11:04 EDT 2001

>Hmmm....anyone had similar problems with Dnet? I hope not.

>By RICHARD POWELSON, Scripps Howard News Service
>(June 18, 2001 03:51 p.m. EDT) - Most employees of the federal
>Tennessee Valley Authority focus on power production, but 17 were
>caught using office computers for as long as a year to crunch data in
>a space alien manhunt.
>The federal corporation's inspector general found that the employees'
>computers had downloaded software allowing them to help sort through
>radio signal data collected from space by the giant Arecibo radio
>telescope in Puerto Rico. No proof of intelligent life was found -so
>The computer program from the University of California-Berkeley -
>SETI at home (The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) - is so
>popular that more than 3 million computer users around the world have
>downloaded it. TVA's inspector general called it a security breach, a
>violation of the agency's written policy and recommended
>administrative action against the employees.
>All the guilty TVA employees were given warnings that any future
>computer security violations could result in dismissal. The program
>was deleted from their computers.
>Downloading the program provides a flashy screen saver, which is an
>image that appears on one's computer after it is idle for a while. The
>program gives the university very valuable, free computing time when
>the millions of participating volunteers' computers are idle and on.
>At TVA, two employees left their computers on constantly and competed
>to see who could crunch more data for the alien search. Of the 17
>involved, one ran the program only for an hour, while another operated
>it up to a year, investigators found.
>When each computer finishes a unit of work, the results are sent
>automatically over the Internet to the university's central computer.
>Phase one of the project, checking billions of radio signals in this
>galaxy, is projected to be completed at the end of the year.
>Richard Chambers, TVA's inspector general, said: "If you're allowing
>others to tap into your computer you have got some additional risk
>there" from hackers.
>Anthony Smith, a senior manager of the agency's computer system, said
>the special program presented "some kind of risk" to their computers.
>But he found the program uses a high level of protective encryption so
>there was "a relatively low risk."
>TVA managers have conducted a computer security awareness campaign
>throughout the agency, which is in Knoxville, Tenn., and sells
>wholesale power in parts of seven states.
>David Anderson, director of the alien research project, said hackers
>have never damaged the project's computer system or any computers of
>its more than 3 million users the past two years. Invaders one time
>tricked the university's Web page into providing them e-mail addresses
>of the alien searchers, which resulted in mischievous e-mail messages
>to volunteers.
>But he said that security loophole has been plugged.
>What kind of person downloads the search program for alien radio
>signals? Most apparently are science-fiction buffs, according to a
>survey on the university's Web site.
>Of the 93,000 who responded, 94 percent believe there is life outside
>of Earth.
>Nearly 6 percent believe aliens would be hostile to Earth's residents;
>58 percent are "not sure," and 36 percent predicted they would be

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