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The Nation

Interior Dept. Navigates an Internet Void

April 04, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Four months after a judge pulled the plug on the Interior Department's Internet access, Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton still can't send e-mail.

Her entire office remains offline, as do the government agencies responsible for American Indian affairs and mining on federal land.

"We're all hurriedly sending smoke signals" to cope with the lack of Web access, said Nedra Darling, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. "We're doing a lot more faxing. We're making a lot more phone calls and doing a lot more mailing."

On Dec. 5, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordered officials to disconnect the department's computers from the Internet to stop hackers from breaking into an accounting system that manages $500 million in royalties from Indian land each year.

A court-appointed investigator had found that even a novice hacker could breach the system's security.

Now, 85% of Interior's access has been restored, the department says. Still out of service are the accounting systems for the Indian money Lamberth had sought to guard.

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