[RC5] TVA workers reprimanded for alien search

rob bernhard cetan_post at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 19 15:15:37 EDT 2001

As long as there are people that are so bizzarly hooked on stats there
will be people the violate acceptable usage policies.

This has, afaik, happened with the dnet client on a number of
occasions.  People have lost jobs, college scholarships, etc because of
un-authorized usage.  

I defer to DNet staff for a confirmation of this, though I doubt they
can (legally?) provide any more details than to say "we have had

--- blitz <blitz at macronet.net> wrote:
> >Hmmm....anyone had similar problems with Dnet? I hope not.
> >http://www.nandotimes.com/technology/story/28884p-501336c.html
> >
> >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
> >far.
> >
> >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
> >friendly.
> --
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