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Homer Simpson would be proud: Nuclear regulators crack firewalls to access porn
Question of the Day
It’s become tougher to surf porn on government computers after scandals, but some workers at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission managed to find ways to bypass detection software and firewalls to get the illicit content, records show.
One contract employee watched, in his words, two “porn type” Netflix movies during “downtime” on his 12-hour shift at the commission’s office of information services, according to case records reviewed by The Washington Times.
Another employee repeatedly used the photo-sharing site Flickr to search for pornography while at the office.
And for years, a resident inspector at the agency scoured eBay looking for pornographic images.
The case memos don’t suggest as pervasive of a problem as the porn-surfing scandal that embroiled the Securities and Exchange Commission a few years ago. But the records indicate that the problem hasn’t been eliminated, either.
Joseph McMillian, assistant inspector general for investigations, said agents hadn’t been tipped off to any broader problems when they opened the investigation.
“It wasn’t anything specific; it was just being proactive,” he said.
From May 2011 to September 2012, agents with the inspector general’s cybercrimes unit opened seven cases involving computer misuse, records show. Among the examples cited in a case memo, all involved pornography.
In one investigation, agents approached an employee about 100 explicit images and videos traced to his computer. The employee denied looking at the material, and what might have seemed like an excuse turned out to be true.
Investigators later learned that a co-worker filched that employee’s login credentials to search for porn using terms such as “busty women.”
The records reviewed by The Times contain redactions that make it impossible to determine the names or detailed job titles of employees or contractors caught perusing pornography.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is charged with overseeing the nation’s nuclear industry. Many of its 2,800 staff members work at the agency’s headquarters in suburban Maryland.
Mr. McMillian referred questions about discipline to the agency but said the inspector general’s office was satisfied with actions taken after the investigations.
In six cases that The Times inquired about, the agency proposed disciplinary penalties ranging from a three-day suspension to removal from the job, commission spokeswoman Holly Harrington said.
“When determining the appropriate penalty the NRC considers a number of factors, including but not limited to the nature and seriousness of the action and frequency of the action; the employee’s job level; the employee’s past disciplinary record; the employee’s work record, including length of service; and consistency with other like or similar cases,” she wrote in an email.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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