Friday, January 27, 2006

DVD Pirates in West Virginia Capitol Building

I first heard about this story on This Week in Tech, podcast number 39. Slashdot showed me the link to the Charleston Gazette article (January 18, 2006). I'm quoting a big chunk of the article here because the Gazette's links go dead quickly, and I want to keep this around. I begin to see parallels between this and some computer "issues" I've observed in my part-time work for the state of West Virginia.

January 18, 2006: Makeshift studio, piracy software found at Capitol
By The Associated Press

State investigators have stumbled onto a basement office in the West Virginia Capitol outfitted with computers, video and audio gear, and software used to pirate movies and music recordings, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.

Specifically, one hard drive contained approximately 40 full-length motion videos, state Chief Technology Officer Kyle Schafer said in the Jan. 5 memo to Administration Secretary Robert Ferguson. Two other hard drives contained over 3,500 MP3 music files consuming more than 14 [gigabytes] of hard drive space.

Hundreds of blank DVDs, CDs and jacket covers were also found, as was software commonly used to crack header codes on copyrighted materials such as movies and music to allow duplication, Schafer's memo said.

Ferguson confirmed Tuesday that his staff found the makeshift audio-video studio amid his widening probe into spending and other abuses at the state General Services Division.

The review found that someone in General Services sidestepped state purchasing rules to buy more than $88,000 worth of computers and related equipment over the last three years, including the items discovered in the basement office. Not all the purchased computers and gear can be located, Ferguson said.

General Services maintains the Capitol Complex grounds and buildings, among other duties. Yet Schafer's memo shows that it purchased $51,000 worth of computers during the 2005 budget year alone, compared to the $45,726 worth bought by the state auditor's office.

The [purchase] card system was abused, in what seems to be an intentional attempt to bypass rules to buy equipment that for General Services was outside the norm, Ferguson said. There was no question on what they could do with a P-card, in my opinion. As a Cabinet secretary, I would say that it was out of control.

Both the FBI and the Legislature's Commission on Special Investigations are investigating his department's finds, Ferguson said.

He declined to identify who made the purchases, or whose office contained the makeshift audio-video studio.

We will hold accountable those people who have abused the letter and the spirit of the law and undermined my responsibility to safeguard the resources of the state, Ferguson said.

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