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Programmer Admits Stealing US Gov't Accounting Software Source Code

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the public-costs-should-create-public-goods dept.

Crime 125

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from NetSecurity.org: "A Chinese computer programmer that was charged with stealing the source code of software developed by the U.S. Treasury Department pleaded guilty to the charge on Tuesday. The 33-year-old Bo Zhang, legally employed by a U.S. consulting firm contracted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, admitted that he took advantage of the access he had to the Government-wide Accounting and Reporting Program (GWA) in order to copy the code onto an external hard disk and take it home." Just such things make me think that the default setting for software created with public money should be released with source code anyhow, barring context-specific reasons that it shouldn't be.

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125 comments

Why? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40166697)

Just such things make me think that the default setting for software created with public money should be released with source code anyhow, barring context-specific reasons that it shouldn't be.

So that countries who have not spent money can use it for free?

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40166715)

That seems like less harm then depriving the rightful owners of the code access, the american taxpayer.

Re:Why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40166771)

That seems like less harm then depriving the rightful owners of the code access, the american taxpayer.

You mean the food-inhaling, face-stuffing, waddles-instead-of-walking-like-a-human-fucking-being American lardass who probably can't do a single pull-up.

How do they get so fucking disgustingly fat anyway? Before you were 100lbs overweight you were 20lbs overweight and could have said "hey maybe Im doing something wrong and should change before this gets worse". How stupid do you have to be not to have this kind of realization?

Re:Why? (-1, Flamebait)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167301)

Those of us who fit that description largely (!) got there the same way you've come up with your post. It makes you feel better, somehow, and satisfies some animal instinct you cannot otherwise neither satisfy nor tame.

Let me guess. You're not of the right-wing persuasion, eh? How's your country doing?

Re:Why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167605)

Those of us who fit that description largely (!) got there the same way you've come up with your post. It makes you feel better, somehow, and satisfies some animal instinct you cannot otherwise neither satisfy nor tame.

I see how you try to equate the blatantly dysfunctional with the merely (to some) distasteful. You realize that isn't so, correct?

Only reason I don't like fatties is they seem to also have no situational awareness. Whenever I am in a store and somebody almost runs into me with their cart (when I am standing still) because they can't be bothered to look where they're going, it's a fattie. Same deal with cars failing to yield right of way. And they seem to take no responsibility for their size. Smokers are expected to move away from non-smokers and not to bother non-smokers. Fatties feel no urge to move their extra-large bulk out of the way. They seem to enjoy congregating in front of doorways and other high-traffic areas, forcing everyone to maneuver around them. If I ever got that fat I would say "this is my problem" and would try hard not to inflict it on other people. It would be the least I could do.

Then there's the whole deal with trying to find a woman who respects herself enough not to let herself get fat. There are not many left. There REALLY are not many left who aren't already taken.

Oh and guess what happens when there are large numbers of obese people? They develop large numbers of health problems. Guess what that does to my ability to afford health insurance? That's right. I end up subsidizing lardasses. They need more medical care, thus making medical care more scarce because there is now more demand, thus making it more expensive and harder to obtain for everyone, even people who don't get fat. As though the aging Baby Boomers weren't already putting a strain on things.

I might write an opinion you dislike but that's the worst I will ever do to you. Fatties though really do impact other people in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. They seem unwilling to assume responsibility for that. This makes them like the corporations that pollute knowing they will never pay the full cost of that pollution.

Re:Why? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40169527)

I see the Chinese governments attempts to derail forums dealing with anything mentioning china are ongoing.

Re:Why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40168025)

Those of us who fit that description largely (!) got there the same way you've come up with your post. It makes you feel better, somehow, and satisfies some animal instinct you cannot otherwise neither satisfy nor tame.

Let me guess. You're not of the right-wing persuasion, eh? How's your country doing?

You know just because most Liberals are childish and can't control their emotions ... doesn't mean that right-wingers are the ONLY people who expect adults to make good decisions.

Re:Why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167393)

You watch too much TV, That or I live in Athleticville... There's a few fatties around here, but most people are doing just fine. Especially the girls running around the track and walking by my store.

Re:Why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167749)

You mean the food-inhaling, face-stuffing, waddles-instead-of-walking-like-a-human-fucking-being American lardass who probably can't do a single pull-up.

We have a large number of people and therfore a number of large people but we also have some fine ass bitches too. Don't believe me? Go to any US college in the summer and then after seeing all the pussy you'll never get, crawl back in your forever alone cave.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40168489)

Really? They all look like mouth-breathing, peroxide blonde bimbos to me.

Re:Why? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40166805)

The answer is simple - and possibly already implemented - keep the source and executable under a license and confidentiality agreement.

License it free to American companies/individuals but not for free (or at all) to foreign ones.

Certainly there would be issues with keeping a multitude of licensees from leaking source like a sieve to similar foreign moles/agents, but we aren't talking about a DVD or mp3 file either.

newsflash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40166851)

You are not the "owner" of the NASA space shuttle either. (or the code that runs it). Just because you paid money to allow a government department to function doesn't mean you own them.

Re:newsflash (5, Informative)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167043)

That's making the false assumption that "physical property" and "intellectual property" are the same thing. Hint: they are not.

Any work of the United States government, or an employee of such working on government time, is automatically in the public domain. Everything from NASA photographs to recordings of the Marine Corps Band to every boring office memo are public domain. I don't see why that should not apply to program code.

Note also that "classified" and "public domain" are separate things - technically, even the ultra-top-secret "list of nuclear launch codes" is public domain, in that no one can claim copyright or trademark on it. So the "fire ze missiles" program can be (and probably should be) classified. But the accounting programs?

Re:newsflash (1)

sohmc (595388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167435)

Someone please mod this as +1 Informative.

The key here is that no one can claim copyright to work done by the US Government. This does not mean that it is accessible to the public.

Not quite - here's more info (5, Informative)

dwheeler (321049) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167741)

Not quite. It's true that a work of a U.S. federal government employee, performed as part of their official duties, cannot normally have copyright in the U.S. HOWEVER... most software developed for the government is developed by contractors, at least in part, and those parts DO have a copyright. (There are even a few exceptions for government employees, but they practically never apply.) Also, the term "public domain" has multiple meanings, presumably you mean public domain in the copyright sense (not the export control sense, which is different).

To see when contractors or the U.S. government can currently release software as OSS, see Publicly Releasing Open Source Software Developed for the U.S. Government by David A. Wheeler (me), Journal of Software Technology, February 2011 [thedacs.com] . That's the current state of affairs.

I agree with the poster above: When "we the people" pay for software, then by default "we the people" should get it. I even posted an entry about that in 2010 [dwheeler.com] . Sure, there need to be exceptions, but they should be exceptions; it's not obvious why accounting software developed by the government is treated this way! I also agree that we should use clearer terms like intellectual rights (and intellectual works) - not "intellectual property" [dwheeler.com] - because "intellectual property" is a fundamentally misleading term.

Re:Not quite - here's more info (2)

s.petry (762400) | more than 2 years ago | (#40168341)

There is also international rules involved since this code would be available to those outside of the US as well as within the US. This is where ITAR comes in to play.

I.E. You being an employee may have access under ITAR to an item. Copy that item, and place it in public domain and there is a problem.

Your pretty far out there in your views if you think that anything tax payers pay for in the US should be freely available to someone in Korea for example. Unless Korea is paying the US for the work done, and tax payers are refunded money that is.

Re:Not quite - here's more info (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 2 years ago | (#40169767)

Well, believing that ITAR has any effect when it comes to the flow of information is rather Pollyanna to begin with. And sure, we don't want to supply material support to the governments of NK or Iran, but the free flow of information helps the people more than it does their oppressive regimes. Of course that's not necessarily applicable to the software in question, but I'm speaking to the larger issue of ineffective, and potentially counter-productive, trade restrictions on intellectual works.

Re:Not quite - here's more info (1)

plover (150551) | more than 2 years ago | (#40169703)

"intellectual property" is a fundamentally misleading term.

Assuming that phrase truly is misleading, that pretty much guarantees it will continue to be used. "Misleading" means that someone is benefitting from the improper usage, and they will not willingly give up this tool.

And we know which industry groups love to use this phrase.

Re:newsflash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40168171)

Everything from NASA photographs to recordings of the Marine Corps Band to every boring office memo are public domain.

I agree, but I never trust the law. What was the settlement between McCandles and Sony over the spacewalk photo?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/oct/08/astronaut-sues-dido-album-cover

If you RTFA... (2)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 2 years ago | (#40168645)

You'll see that the main reason they went after him was because he took the source code in order to use it for his personal profit, and it hadn't gone through the proper channels to make it public-ready. In other words, what he did with the accounting software was roughly equivalent to taking classified missile control software home in order to either start a competing business or use it to help his current one. Technically, the software is "public domain," but the Federal Reserve had not actually gone through the process of making it ready to be released to the public.

I have no problem with him doing a few years for that because what he did is no different than taking a work-for-hire work home to use for a customer who didn't pay for it nor was authorized by the paying customer to have it. That's for-profit copyright violation in the private sector, and since he intended to derive private benefits from it, I don't see much of a difference. It's not like he took it home, modified it to be attractive to the Department of the Treasury and tried to demo it to another part of the government (since the Federal Reserve is a quasi-federal agency, taking their code to show to the Treasury would have been less legally problematic)

Re:If you RTFA... (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#40169333)

Now why on earth would I read the article? That would just get in the way of writing more comments disparaging IP law, ranting about the government/Microsoft/Apple/Google/MPAA/RIAA, and fervently awaiting the Year of Linux on the Desktop.

Re:newsflash (1)

bcong (1125705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40169279)

Yes it is in the public domain, but there is no requirement for them to proactively share it to the public.

Re:Why? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40166991)

But he was Chinese, not American. In fact, that may be the only reason he was prosecuted.

dom

Re:Why? (3, Interesting)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167407)

No, that he was Chinese, not American is why it made the front page. He's clearly part of the Chinese conspiracy to steal our IP, even though there is absolutely no mention that he sent the code back home to some Chinese corporation. In fact if they had proof of that I think he'd be facing a bit more than 1.5yrs, even with cooperation and you can bet your ass they looked. In this case his story makes sense, he's probably not the only person to do this.

I'm not sure how many American engineers and developers make copies of the work that they did while an employee of some company, but I know the number is greater than 0. Almost none of them are using it for industrial espionage or in allegiance to some foreign power. But it is almost always against your employment agreement, and if caught you likely will be sued or worse.

When the employer is the government, everything just gets escalated a few steps.

Re:Why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40168663)

I think rather than "greater than zero," it would be easier to say, it *might* be less than 100%.

I, frankly, don't know ANYONE that writes code for anyone who doesn't make copies of everything, or most everything they have ever coded. The good bits go into a "toolkit" that gets modded to fit a new project.

That anyone wouldn't do this would defy common-sense. Perhaps a few won't because it's against the rules, or some such - but it wouldn't be because they didn't think it useful.

---
As far as the nationalistic BS - yeah - he was a brown-skinned "furiner" so he must be an evil menace.
(sarcasm) But he should look on the bright-side (/sarcasm) - if he'd been Muslim the penalty would have been even more out of proportion.

Re:Why? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167067)

> Just such things make me think that the default setting for software created with public money should be released with source code anyhow, barring context-specific reasons that it shouldn't be.

posting as a coward for obvious reasons... a lot of government generated code is released as public domain. I've done it, several people I work with do it. I believe this wasn't released because it is considered "sensitive" (but where does this sensitive and non-sensitive line get crossed? government is conservative and will make something sensitive rather than risk it).

This isn't my agency or even department, but here is an example (not a great one): http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/commercial_initiative/modeling_software.html

Re:Why? (2)

westlake (615356) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167789)

That seems like less harm then depriving the rightful owners of the code access, the american taxpayer.

Simply out of curiosity:

of what possible use is internal accounting software designed for enterprises on the scale of the US government to the average American taxpayer?

The software in question keeps track of money exchanged between US government agencies and, according to the authorities, its development cost nearly $10 millions.

Programmer pleads guilty to US govt software source code theft [net-security.org]

He said to the FBI that he did so that the code would be available to him in the event of losing his job, and to use it for his private business, which is teaching computer programming.

Re:Why? (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#40168203)

Unless of course the actual owners of the source code is a private company who sell the same software to multiple governments or countries (state governments or other countries) at which point open sourcing it just fucked them out of a huge chunk of their revenue.

Worse still is that the same basic accounting software may be used by corporations as well. There's lots of problems when writing software for money that aren't unique to the US, any decimalized system that uses numbers in the approximate ranges that dollars are used in, so there's a whole backend of making sure you are correctly representing numbers and dealing with them properly that could be used for any accounting software, even if part of it is US government specific.

a search for the program in the article points to http://www.fms.treas.gov/cars/index.html

which specifically includes reporting to a US government programme, so a corporation might need very similar if not the same software to plug into the treasury and bill them for example.

A rare case for liberated software (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#40168245)

I quite agree w/ this. In fact, despite my general disagreement w/ the GPL, this is one of those rare cases where I think GPLv3 is useful: the original software written, since it's done for the US taxpayer, should be public domain, and any modifications made to it should be available under the same T&C. That way, businesses normally wouldn't want to touch it and taxpayers wouldn't be subsidizing free work for them, any improvements made to it will be publicly viewable, and so on. IRS written software would be one of the best examples of what should be GPL'ed.

If other countries or entities then want to use it, they can, but any changes they make would have to be made available. Which can then be determined whether it's useful to its original creators and included in the main branch. Same goes for other individuals or organizations doing it.

Only exception to the above rule is if the government software in question is needed to work on classified information, or for things like the military, in which case, secrecy is important. In such cases, a good idea would be to have such software w/ source code under limited distribution, so that it doesn't fall into the hands of enemies.

Re:A rare case for liberated software (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#40170603)

this is one of those rare cases where I think GPLv3 is useful..

If other countries or entities then want to use it, they can, but any changes they make would have to be made available. Which can then be determined whether it's useful to its original creators and included in the main branch. Same goes for other individuals or organizations doing it.

Does the GPL have any standing in international courts? International IP/licensing law and enforcement might make the GPL a fairly naive tool to ensure modified changes are shared by all. For all I know, international law is only as good as the respect the relevant countries place in it...and I'm under the impression that it's up to the countries to choose what they do and don't legally enforce/respect.

Of course, I reserve the right to be completely naive and wrong about how international law 'works' - but when we're talking about sovereign entities.

Re:Why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40166737)

Oh fuck off .. you microsoft shill..

Re:Why? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40166779)

If the world had better accounting software, maybe the world economy would be healthier? But, I think what the author is of this submissions is suggesting is that the American public should have public access to any source code written by the public sector. See the words public there? It's no coincidence they're all spelled the same.

Re:Why? (2)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#40166787)

Just such things make me think that the default setting for software created with public money should be released with source code anyhow, barring context-specific reasons that it shouldn't be.

So that countries who have not spent money can use it for free?

I, for one, do not want the overpriced, often delayed, over managed & under performing software my taxes pay for to be 'free' for anyone, any company or any country. Let them overpay and wait for their own.

Re:Why? (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#40170635)

I, for one, do not want the overpriced, often delayed, over managed & under performing software my taxes pay for to be 'free' for anyone, any company or any country. Let them overpay and wait for their own.

Hmm, maybe 'free use' for any of the US naturalized/tax paying citizens.

Re:Why? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167735)

I would have been more concerned if he took the data not the source code. Unless the Chinese officials wanted to analysis it for security flaws?

Re:Why? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#40168161)

So that countries who have not spent money can use it for free?

Sure. Why not? What interest does the USA have in keeping the rest of the world down? The World Economy is not a zero sum game.

Maybe now we can find the accounting hole bugs (1)

BMOC (2478408) | more than 2 years ago | (#40166751)

if NON_DISCRET_SPENDING => WASTE
HIDE;
else
PROMOTE;
end

mixed ownership (2)

beatle42 (643102) | more than 2 years ago | (#40166791)

The ownership of the code can often get a little muddied, as the company who is paid to develop it may use their own funds at times too--or extend an existing product the company has for the government's needs--meaning some of it is proprietary and privately funded. This is why most such software is available for use within the government, but the private company maintains rights to continue to develop and sell it commercially as well.

Re:mixed ownership (4, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#40166875)

That's fine as long as the output of the software doesn't affect anyone, anytime. If the software has any effect on the government's decision about anything that affects me, I should have the right to view the source.

Just like an American Citizen shouldn't have to worry about secret laws, the code that implements the law shouldn't be secret.

Re:mixed ownership (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167061)

Not just the right to view the source, you should have the right to use the code your tax dollars paid for for any purpose you choose. All products of government should be public domain. No exceptions.

Re:mixed ownership (1)

beatle42 (643102) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167193)

My point was that the government only pays, often, for part of the software. It would often be useless without some proprietary other part, so your goal wouldn't work without either depriving rights holders by virtue of them working with the government, or without you obtaining some commercial software as well.

Re:mixed ownership (1)

Githaron (2462596) | more than 2 years ago | (#40168531)

Terms of the copyrights and patents involved could be shortened proportionally to the amount the government spends on said project. If a company accepts government money, they would be required to release the source at the end of their shortened copyright.

Re:mixed ownership (1)

beatle42 (643102) | more than 2 years ago | (#40168609)

Well I'd expect your tax bill to go up soon if this were enacted. I would think the government would have to pay a hefty premium for a company to agree to terms like that.

Re:mixed ownership (1)

beatle42 (643102) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167281)

What about when the government buys a license for some COTS product? Should the government be barred from using proprietary software all together because the source will often be unavailable to us? It's certainly some different if the government is paying for development, though as I pointed out that's rarely clean cut either.

Re:mixed ownership (3, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167681)

Exactly.

And it doesn't have to be COTS stuff. I know a small company that developed a weather instrument monitoring package and sold thousands of executable-only versions, but one customer wanted a source license so they could modify it or recompile it for other platforms. He sold exactly one source license.

Six months later a Google search revealed his entire source code on three different source code repositories, two of which were overseas.

 

Re:mixed ownership (1)

JimCanuck (2474366) | more than 2 years ago | (#40170813)


Hence why if you sell a source code license it should be for more then you expect to make out of the software till end of life. Once it is out of your hands, its no longer your own product.

Giving away code is never a smart idea no matter how much you think a single license is worth.

So by your logic (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167293)

since a Government employee can use Office in the course of their job affecting you would that mean that Microsoft must provide the source for viewing?

At what level would we set a limit? As the person you replied stated, most times government contracts are for making minor changes, many soft coded at that, to adapt existing proprietary software to the customer's needs.

I would agree with software created expressly for the government, as in it was the original customer.

Interesting... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40166807)

A Chinese national who used to work at my company lifted our proprietary code and fled back to China as well.

Re:Interesting... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167347)

There's a reason why the Chinese are desperately grabbing all of the source code they can. They're deadly serious about offensive cyberwarfare, and starting to get good at it.

Re:Interesting... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40170107)

Yeah, no surprise it was a Chink who did this.

Give him a medal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40166817)

US Govt accounting methods should be considered economic weapons of mass destruction. Also: First Post!

I've done that before (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40166819)

Not to sell the code afterwards but to keep at home so I can save some code patterns and ideas for future use.

Re:I've done that before (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#40166887)

Indeed. The article is short on details.

Here's the real story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40166829)

The software in question keeps track of money exchanged between US government agencies and, according to the authorities, its development cost nearly $10 millions.

The idea of "stealing" government information would normally be nonsensical but if the guy is Chinese I suppose a weird (but valid) argument could be made that he is not part of the public that paid for it. If you or I ask for the source code, it should either be supplied to us or else we should get a tax refund. This guy? Technically no; he has no claim.

What's really fucked up is the dollar amount. Everybody immediately knows massive fraud or incompetence has happened. That's embarrassing and just because US currently has no conservative parties, that doesn't mean it never will, so it could some day possibly become a political issue. If I worked in that department, I too would feel constant unease and shallowly-submerged yet intensely burning desire to mete our severe punishment against anyone who does anything to attract public attention to this system's existence. Who is to say (for sure) that a Congress couldn't be elected in 2014 that takes away your cushy taxpayer-funded job? Anyone related to this project who gets into the news needs to be skinned and burned alive.

Re:Here's the real story (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 2 years ago | (#40170759)

That's embarrassing and just because US currently has no conservative parties

You misspelled "liberal".

give him life and tell your lucky not to get death (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40166919)

give him life and tell your lucky not to get the death penalty for treason

Seems kinda dumb (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40166929)

If you're going to steal something from the United States, I'd think it would be much better to steal something that works well!

Re:Seems kinda dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167001)

Accounting software that directs funds from all other services directly to the Military, why wouldn't China want that LOL

Re:Seems kinda dumb (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167159)

The 33-year-old Bo Zhang, legally employed by a U.S. consulting firm contracted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, admitted that he took advantage of the access he had to the Government-wide Accounting and Reporting Program (GWA) in order to copy the code onto an external hard disk and take it home.

Sweet.

Mother.

Of.

GOD.

NOT THE ACCOUNTING AND REPORTING SOFTWARE!!! Oh God no. Oh God no. Oh God no. Now the terrorists have access to the TPS REPORTS!!! They'll know how a PT-44 revision 8b (as amended by the New Management Initiative Subcommittee 79a-b, 1967) audit works! And — may God have mercy on our souls — they might figure out how to copy the entire submanagement structure of the Greater Boise Area (Excluding Outlying Suburbs and Farms) Processing and Distribution Department!

That's it. We're doomed. They have our bureaucracy. THEY HAVE OUR BUREAUCRACY, PEOPLE!!! THESE ARE THE END TIMES!!!

Re:Seems kinda dumb (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167687)

Don't forget the even greater horror of learning the entire contents of form 27B-6.

Re:Seems kinda dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40168293)

Zombie Jesus on a pogo stick!? How is this not +5 Funny yet? I haven't laughed this hard in days.

Yes, release the source. (-1, Offtopic)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#40166943)

the default setting for software created with public money should be released with source code anyhow

You American pigs need to release more of your tech and software to the world. It is wrong that you deprive us of that work. Please hand over all of your code for military operations and launch codes as well.

What do you mean that you will not do it? Well, not a problem. We will simply put backdoors into your chips, steal your code from on-line (thank you MS), put 10's of 1000's of spies in the west and even get your companies to move here and give us the patents to be able to sell back to the west with cheaper versions.

Die, Western Pigs
Oh, have a nice day.

Wen Jiabao

Re:Yes, release the source. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40166997)

This is about tax and accounting software.

Do you really think anyone would want to steal that? It is probably of no use at all except to those that pay taxes in america...

Re:Yes, release the source. (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167091)

Do you really think anyone would want to steal that?

Do you really think no-one would? What if there's a vulnerability in there that could send the entire tumbling down? I'm sure no foreign power would be interested in that.

Re:Yes, release the source. (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 2 years ago | (#40168227)

I can't imagine why? In cases like tax info, it's the data that's valuable, not the over-engineered lovecraftian spreadsheet that are the tax calculations.

Re:Yes, release the source. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#40168641)

Yeah. I am sure that somebody that wants to attack the west would never be interested in getting access to our software. I mean how useful would it be for China to see where we are spending money at (note that this was about REPORTING) or being able to change the numbers so as to cause chaos within the gov. Likewise, they would never want to control our utilities, our transportation, etc.

Re:Yes, release the source. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40168243)

You're a fag.

Public domain? (5, Interesting)

Meneth (872868) | more than 2 years ago | (#40166957)

Normally, works of the US federal government are in the public domain, and not protected by copyright. How is this not the case here?

On another note, Slashdot editors, please stop using the word "stealing" for immaterial right infringements.

Re:Public domain? (3, Funny)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167071)

You stole my idea that stealing ideas is not stealing.

Re:Public domain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167183)

Normally, works of the US federal government are in the public domain, and not protected by copyright. How is this not the case here?

Well, it's accounting software written by the federal government. This isn't in the public domain out of embarrassment.

Re:Public domain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167671)

A work of the United States government, as defined by United States copyright law, is "a work prepared by an officer or employee of the U.S. government as part of that person's official duties. In this case it was created by a contractor so it does not fall in the public domain. It's a real shame people take advantage of loopholes within the law.

Re:Public domain? (1)

mbenzi (410594) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167451)

Yes, from the discussion of this I don't see how this is a copyright case.

Works of the United States government are not entitled to domestic copyright protection under U.S. law, sometimes referred to as "noncopyright."

relevant discussion of this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_status_of_work_by_the_U.S._government [wikipedia.org]

Re:Public domain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167509)

On another note, Slashdot editors, please stop using the word "stealing" for immaterial right infringements.

Slashdot is just reporting the news here. He admitted to "stealing". The word choice was not Slashdot's.

Re:Public domain? (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#40168181)

On another note, Slashdot editors, please stop using the word "stealing" for immaterial right infringements.

TFA says that he burned it to a CD, so if the CD came from stock purchased by his employer than it is technically correct to say he stole the code.

The Federal Reserve isn't really a federal agency (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 2 years ago | (#40168473)

The Federal Reserve is actually a public-private corporation that happens to do some important Treasury-related functions. They're not an actual federal agency like the US Mint.

Re:Public domain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40168499)

On another note, Slashdot editors, please stop using the word "stealing" for immaterial right infringements.

Why? I'm always suspect of the motives of someone who wants to stop using a perfectly workable term that's been used for centuries.
 
(Especially since in this case, the argument for change is usually based on a juvenile appeal to selective dictionary definitions.)

Re:Public domain? (1)

ffflala (793437) | more than 2 years ago | (#40169031)

Wow, what a great comment. There's a technical answer to your question, but I think you might actually have hit upon a useful litigation or at least lobbying strategy. There are two aspects to the answer: (1) Only works produced by US employees or officers fall into the public domain exception; works produced by contractors are not. (2) There's statutory distinction between between "computer program" and "work of the United States government." http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/101 [cornell.edu]

A "computer program" is a set of statements or instructions to be used directly or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about a certain result . . . .
A "work of the United States Government" is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that personâ(TM)s official duties.

Interestingly, note that in those definitions, the actual term "work" itself is not delineated, only different types of works: audiovisual works, collective works, derivative work, joint works, literary works, etc.

While there's judicial precedent for considering a computer program as a type of literary work (

"Thus a computer program, whether in object code or source code, is a âoeliterary workâ

...it did so in a specific context:

"...and is protected from unauthorized copying, whether from its object or source code version."

(Apple v. Franklin, http://digital-law-online.info/cases/219PQ113.htm [digital-law-online.info] ) I think you might have hit upon not just a technical loophole but one that points to informed underlying public policy -- source code for things like voting machines, for example, should be open. Technically that's a matter of state, not federal, copyright since states run elections, but the public policy concern is the same.

Still, for TFA's category of software --internal accounting-- there are obvious conflicts to business interests: contractors would probably find such requirements detrimental to their business models. I believe that there's also a perceived security risk that outweighs any long-term security benefit. I imagine that most bureaucrats would think of opening the source in this kind of scenario as something akin to releasing the architectural plans for a federal building -- it would just make it easier for a malicious party to attack said program/building. It's that last concern --because it's actually a sincere one in most cases, and based on the reality that there are malicious parties who would like to attack such programs for any number of reasons and have already done so-- that I believe would probably be the biggest obstacle to getting the fed to move to open source.

And the problem is ... ? (2, Funny)

richg74 (650636) | more than 2 years ago | (#40166999)

Given the way our government seems to run its accounts, perhaps we should hope that all potential competitors / adversaries steal it.

US Citizen or Chinese citizen?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167033)

So is he Chinese as in decent, or Chinese as in citizen of China? Those are two very very different things. Even though the code may not be classified I'm typically against having non US citizens working on US funded code bases. This seems like a security and political issue to me. Though the code may not be classified it is likely subject to the same rigid standards that classified code is subject to. This seems like giving out too much information about how the US government requires code to be developed to a foreign body. I don't like it and politically I like it even less. When the government is outsourcing, even by proxy, it makes this country look like a bunch of morons who can't do anything themselves. We have out of work developers right here. Typically I have no problem whatsoever with using products from other countries. This country was founded on a principle that immigration and diversification make a wide open place where anyone on Earth is welcome. I do like that a lot, but national security is national security even when its something as small and seemingly meaningless as this.

Re:US Citizen or Chinese citizen?? (1)

parkinglot777 (2563877) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167547)

So is he Chinese as in decent, or Chinese as in citizen of China?

A simple question to answer your curiosity is that if he was hired with working visa when he stole the code, what do you think he is a U.S. citizen back then?

Also, if I understand correctly, Chinese decent means he person's parents and/or ancestors are from China regardless the person is a citizen of the country (even though it is implied). Therefore, the person should be Chinese decent anyway?

Re:US Citizen or Chinese citizen?? (2)

andy1307 (656570) | more than 2 years ago | (#40168823)

I know a lot of decent Chinese people... Also a lot of people of Chinese descent.

Bo Schmo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167127)

Bo [wikipedia.org] went too far with his own bravado, he should have chosen a different alias. He also seems to have misunderstood his lawyer's advice when he was told: "Bo, you don't know Diddley!" and went ahead and pleaded guilty. Bo, you're a schmo!

Don't be such simpletons! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167313)

Think about if all this software you claim should be open source. Let's see: software NASA develops, software for our military systems, satellites, infrastructure, etc. Yeah, let's make it open so everyone in the world can copy it for free. What are you thinking?

However ... (3, Funny)

LMacG (118321) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167521)

... it was written in Ada, so nobody knows what to do with it anyway.

And was the code sent to China? (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167577)

So he risked 10 years in jail just for bedtime reading? Seems improbable. And seems likely he will jump bail and pull another Charlie Trie.

Taxes How-To (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167647)

GREAT! Now release the code so we can finally understand HOW TO DO OUR TAXES. :D

Re:Taxes How-To (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167859)

The new simplified form now has only two lines.

1) How much did you make last year? _________
2) Send check to IRS for amount listed on Line 1.

Chinaman stealing code = spy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167675)

Obviously....

When /. thinks the public should have the source.. (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167787)

Should the public also have keys to the government offices? The reasoning around here being if we paid with our tax dollars for the software, we should get the source code. Should we also get all the keys to all the doors? Or should we just not have locks on the doors to the gov't buildings?

Re:When /. thinks the public should have the sourc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40167901)

Hey, my taxes pay for that building, I should be able to nap on the Oval Office couches any time I want!

US Government Accounting (2)

bunyip (17018) | more than 2 years ago | (#40168005)

Ummm - am I the only one that would wonder why anybody would want this?

Re:US Government Accounting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40168515)

I'm surprised they actually had software for this!

Re:US Government Accounting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40169937)

Because knowing something more about your enemy is better than not knowing anything. The added plus of knowing where their money is going is a valuable information if the Chinese could find a hole to get into the software. Plus if the software is good enough the Chinese could sell it and make money on it or use it themselves without paying for it. Classic China.

Re:US Government Accounting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40170085)

The software was likely written by a vendor, and was likely stolen for use by a Chinese company. But that's speculative.

Re:US Government Accounting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40170277)

Do need to use a special data type to store the value of our national debt?

The Federal Reserve is not the government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40168821)

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is private bank, with special privaleges from the government. It is not part of of the government.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Federal_Reserve_Bank_of_New_York

Re:The Federal Reserve is not the government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40170871)

We've got a dumb fucked tinfoil hatter, here! Mod this fucker down. Federal Reserve conspiracies not welcome on this mainstream site.

Oxymoron (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40169073)

"US Government Accounting".

My thoughts based on the article (1)

pkinetics (549289) | more than 2 years ago | (#40169531)

He said to the FBI that he did so that the code would be available to him in the event of losing his job, and to use it for his private business, which is teaching computer programming.

How much involvement did he have with the code? Meaning how much of it did he write?

Even in a complex system, a hands on developer should know enough of the concepts that they could mock up something for later. Not necessarily a functioning application, but pseudo-coding at a high level to re-evaluate later.

Seriously, if someone is teaching computer programming, how much specifics are you going into? You don't need the line by line, but the concepts.

Well maybe if you are teaching how to debug large scale code, I could see the need to have a library.

Maybe he is an example of the old joke, "those who can't, teach." I'm not a fan of the joke as it was good teachers who helped me to hone my analysis skills.

I know everyone wants open source (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40169897)

But for security reasons there are some good things about closed source.

Lets be real here, we're talking about root financial systems. Neither individuals nor most corporations have any interest in this software. This is the prevue of nations and huge trade alliances.

Keeping the code secret makes it more secure. Yes, it can't be used as the only level of security. It must be on TOP of everything else. I don't think giving the chinese access to our treasury accounting software is going to make the world a better place.

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