Computers: Risky Business

Wednesday - 1/21/2009, 4:00am EST

Knowing how to use a computer is almost a must today if you want to get a federal job, or move up the career ladder.

Knowing what the computer should, and should not, be used for is equally important.

Each year hundreds (maybe thousands) of feds get into big trouble because they use their computers for the wrong thing. It is just as much a problem in the private sector. More often than not the violations rarely become public information unless they are related to some kind of criminal act.

Some feds get into trouble because they are running businesses using their government computers instead of conducting business for the outfit that pays them.

Even if people aren't doing anything illegal, immoral or fattening, many spend a lot of hours searching the web, playing games or assembling imaginary sports teams.

People have been reprimanded, suspended and/or fired for selling or buying real estate, downloading pornography, distributing porn, dealing with ISO dating services or on-line shopping to buy, sell or advertise items ranging from campaign buttons and baseball cards to thimbles for collectors.

Off-the-record talks with a 15 current or former federal officials - from an agency head to an HR director - about improper use of computers was an eye-opener. All but one said that he or she has had to fire an employee because he (and they were all men) was viewing porn on the job.

In some cases workers were given the choice of resigning before action was taken. Other more serious cases were turned over to law enforcement officials for possible prosecution.

One that did make the papers recently dealt with a 26 year old woman in Kansas City. She was a fed and has been charged with running an on-line prostitution service using her government computer. The 36-year old man charged with her did not work for the federal government. The news item said that until last April she worked for the Agriculture Department's Risk Management Agency! You'd think she would have weighed the risk! For details on the story, click here.

For the recorded, the RMA, supervises and regulates the very important federal crop insurance program.

Benefits Checkup

Feds and retirees have until the end of the month to select, or change, their federal health plan for this year. The regular open season, which usually ends in early December, is still accepting FEHP plan enrollments. You also have until the 30th to fund, or bump up the amount you are putting into a flexibile spending account.

Today at 10 a.m. on our Your Turn with Mike Causey radio show, federal benefits expert John Elliott talks about making the most of your benefits package. He'll explain the pros and cons of having an FSA account, and how you may be able to save a lot of money on life insurance, as well as how to maximize your pension. The show starts at 10 a.m. EST. You can listen on your computer or, in the DC area, at 1500 AM on your radio. If you have questions for John send them to me at: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com

Nearly Useless Factoid

In order to avoid a shark attack, Reuters reports we should not swim "in a known shark feeding area." That does it. I'm not leaving my tub.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com