Computer security experts on the alert
On Nov. 2, 1988, Robert Morris, a Cornell University graduate student from Arnold, set loose a "worm" that soon disabled thousands of computers on the Internet, an enormous but loose conglomeration of computers nationwide.
Not long afterward, a group of computer security experts meeting at the National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade to discuss the disaster laid the groundwork for FIRST, the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams.
FIRST, coordinated out of the National Institute of Standards and Technology offices in Gaithersburg, is a coalition of computer security response teams from both the public and private sectors.
Dennis Steinauer, chairman of the FIRST steering committee, describes the need this way: "As more and more organizations get themselves hooked up to networks . . . the threat population has increased, or at least the avenues of exposure."
So FIRST now brings together a variety of outfits that might need to respond swiftly to security threats. They range from teams at the Defense Department to US Sprint, the Space Physics Analysis Network in France and the Government Centre for Information Systems in the United Kingdom.
The idea is to provide swift communication among members about current or potential problems, such as computer viruses or virulent hackers.
"We're not a professional or educational organization," Mr. Steinauer says. "This is an operational activity."
Their main avenue of communication is the Internet, but they also learned a lesson in 1988. "We have backup methods in place that we test from time to time," Mr. Steinauer says, "including the telephone."
FIRST is contemplating staging "a fairly extensive drill"; it has not yet been challenged by any major incidents.
Computer Sciences lab wins defense contract
Computer Sciences Corp. learned last week that its Network Security Integration Laboratory, located near Fort Meade, won a $19.9 million, four-year contract to provide information security services to the Defense Department.
The laboratory works with the National Computer Security Center, which is affiliated with the NSA. The Anne Arundel lab averages 40 workers, supported by another 60 at CSC's Systems Engineering Division in Falls Church, Va. No new positions are anticipated here.
CSC, headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., had received a $6 million contract for the first phase of the project last October.
Its security laboratory evaluates encryption devices built for computer networks, telephones, fax machines and the like, and helps users put them to work in specific applications. It also tests security systems and builds mock-ups for Defense Department projects.
Digital offers $5,000 to break V-card system
Digital Enterprises Inc. of Gaithersburg has a challenge for hackers: Break its anti-virus scheme and win $5,000.
The company sells a hardware/software protection system called V-Card. If you can beat the machine at its headquarters -- no Trojan horses or bombs allowed, the company says -- you'll win the prize.
Enterprising hackers can call Digital at (301) 926-6937.
MicroProse games headed for CD formats
Hunt Valley's MicroProse Software Inc. has licensed several of its most popular game titles to Capitol Multimedia Inc. for release in two new mass-market compact disk formats. The Washington company will develop, market and distribute the games for CD-I (CD-Interactive) and Sony CD-ROM XA machines.
The titles covered by the worldwide pact are Sid Meier's Pirates, Railroad Tycoon and Civilization, as well as Silent Service and Airborne Ranger.
Waverly to distribute Darox videodiscs
Waverly Inc.'s Electronic Media Division will be the exclusive distributor of interactive videodiscs put out for nursing schools by Darox Corp. of La Jolla, Calif.
Darox now has 32 titles for health professionals, with more being developed. They join other Waverly products for medical instruction, such as the Medi-Sim computer-assisted instruction programs and a line of videos.
Magazine seeks computer nightmares
Has your computer driven you right to the edge? Are you ready to hire a disgruntled postal worker to blast the thing to smithereens? Do you long to fold, spindle and mutilate?
Put those problems on paper and you may win a restful weekend in California, courtesy of San Diego's ComputorEdge Magazine.
Its Computer Dementia Contest seeks a 1,000-word essay on your worst computer nightmare. The most horrid wins a weekend out West.
"We have a couple hundred entries so far," said the magazine's Kevin Leap. "Some are pretty hilarious. There was a guy who got Doritos stuck in the keyboard and woke up the next morning with 220,000 pages of the letter 'E.' "
Send entries to P.O. Box 83086, San Diego, Calif. 92138. The deadline is July 31.