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Technology Alerts.

In May 1991, the AICPA Governing Council authorized formation of the AICPA Information Technology Membership Division. One of its purposes poses was to focus on the technology needs of AICPA members.

The division has from time to time published Technology Alerts, which provide members - in timely and brief (usually two pages long) manner - with useful information on a variety of high-tech topics. Information Technology division members automatically receive Technology Alerts. For more information, contact Andrew Gioseffi at (212) 596-6020, or at AICPA, 1211 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036.

This column will summarize those Technology Alerts that may have some importance to CPAs in tax practice. * Virus Update, January 1993, by Robert C. Wynne, CPA This update warns about the dangers of viruses beyond the most publicized ones (such as Michelangelo), and offers some recommendations on protecting computer systems.

As many as three new viruses are created per day. Although most have a common fingerprint that allows anti-virus software to detect them, there are some new strains that mutate each time the virus is spread.

To protect a computer system, users should practice safe computing: 1. Do not put a new floppy disk into the system unless the disk has been tested first. 2. Keep a bootable DOS disk and the newest anti-virus software available Oust in case). 3. Protect original disks after installing them, in case there is a virus and libraries and software need to be reinstalled. 4. Check any files downloaded from bulletin boards. 5. Sign up with an anti-virus service. * Tape Backups May Not Be Enough, March 1993, by Larry J. Wolfe, CPA This alert warns that sooner or later (e.g., in the event of a natural disaster, fire or hard disk burnup), users will have to rely on backups to restore their computer system. By following these 11 quick tips, adequate backup is ensured: 1. Make fun backups. 2. Use the verify option. 3. Back up every day. 4. Test the backups. 5. Use a single tape. 6. Store backup tapes offsite. 7. Maintain a DOS-bootable disk. 8. Permanently save some tapes. 9. Rotate new tapes. 10. Log out workstations. 11. Back up local drives. * Fax Magic, September 1993, by Donald J. Cockburn, FCA This alert warns of the dangers to an audit practice of using information received via fax transmission.

Of course, there are always normal transmission problems of not receiving all the pages, illegibility and text on thermal paper that disappears over time. In addition to these obvious problems, it is necessary to verify that the information sent via fax came from the source indicated, as it is easy to reprogram a fax machine to make the transmission appear to have come from somewhere else. It is also easy to cut and paste documents together to falsify information on a fax transmission, and harder to detect than if one were looking at an original copy.

One solution is to use the fax machine to call the source and "pull" the information from it. Unfortunately, this feature is not available on all fax machines. Another solution is to call the sender and verify over the phone the information received by fax. All information received should be carefully inspected to detect signs of alterations. * Is There a Fax-on-Demand System in Your Office?, January 1994, by Steven W. Bare, CPA Fax on demand is a system of using a computer to answer calls made by a fax machine to send requested information to the caller. The computer must have a sound board, fax board/modem and the appropriate software. Industry predictions have indicated that the number of placements would increase from 10,000 in 1991 to nearly 200,000 in 1995.

This technology is being used by some professional societies (e.g., AICPA) to give members access to information, and by some software vendors to supply technological information. The advantage of this system is that it allows customers to access routine information easily and frees employees to answer more difficult questions. (Some systems require the caller to use a credit card to get the information.)

According to research conducted by Dataquest, fax on demand offers the following benefits: 1. Information can be provided to prospects immediately on request. 2. This method is cheaper than mail. 3. It is capable of handling peak loads. 4. It provides fax numbers of those who call for information. 5. It generates statistics of requests. 6. It creates customer goodwill. 7. It provides the latest information when desired. 8. It provides access to information seven days a week, 24 hours a day. 9. It provides information immediately from any location in the world. * Flash Memory, February 1994, by Michael W. Harnish, CPA, and Liz O'Dell Flash memory, or electronically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM), is rewritable like normal random-access memory (RAM), but unlike dynamic RAM (DRAM) or static RAM (SRAM), holds data after the power is turned off. This nonvolatile memory is found in two main areas of the computer industry: flash BIOS technology and flash memory cards.

The advantages of flash memory cards are: 1. Near indestructibility. 2. Reliability. 3. Convenience. 4. Speed. 5. Conservation of power. 6. Instant responsiveness. 7. Less system RAM. However, the disadvantages are: 1. Cost. 2. Limited storage. 3. Data exchange. 4. Compatibility. * What's Hot and What's Not in Information Technology, May 1994, by Christopher J. Leach, CPA This alert begins with a few statistics: The typical company will invest as much as 8% of revenue in telecommunication, computer hardware-software and related high-tech gear. According to Fortune Special Issue Fall 1993, page 15), information technology eats up a growing share of corporate spending, accounting for over 14% of existing U.S. capital investment as of the end of 1992 versus a mere 8% in 1980.

The trend is toward programming only in Windows (more software vendors are no longer developing DOS versions); and color printers are a more affordable option with a definite decline in the use of dot matrix printers).

The alert describes the PCMCIA cards (the credit-card size cards used in notebooks) and the capabilities they bring, and addresses service for computer equipment. (It is now common for software vendors to have customer support numbers on call 24 hours a day.) * Before Disaster Strikes: 12 Steps to Minimize Computer Losses, july 1994, by Wayne D. Storkman, CPA, MBA This alert reminds practitioners that failure to have adequate disaster recovery systems can cost a company dearly, and offers 12 steps to minimize computer failure or data loss related disaster: 1. Perform regular and complete backups. 2. Practice restoring from backups. 3. Document backup procedures. 4. Store backups off-site. 5. Prearrange alternative computer facilities and telecommunications lines. 6. Invest in redundant systems to restore duplicate data and software. 7. Physically protect equipment and data. 8. Install and enforce network security measures. 9. Follow computer maintenance schedules. 10. Adequately train employees. I 1. Evaluate insurance coverage and maintain computer inventory list. 12. Establish a formal disaster recovery plan. * Fax/Modem Capabilities, August 1994, by Val D. Steed, CPA, MAcc., Randolph P. Johnston, and William C. Fleenor, CPA This alert reviews the capabilities of using the computer as a fax machine. With the ever-increasing speed of modems at lower-than-ever costs, a computer that doubles as a fax machine is available to almost anyone.

Of course, the major advantage to this technology is that if information to be sent by fax is created on the computer, it can be transmitted via fax without having to print it and then feed it through the fax machine. Many of these software products also allow for the receipt of faxes. * DOS 6.22 Alert, December 1994, by Val D. Steed, CPA, MAcc. This alert reviews the history of the DOS 6.x versions, with an emphasis on the then newest version of DOS. It details features of DOS 6.22, such as DOS shell; better MemMaker; improved MEM command; new Del-Tree command; better use of extended memory; smarter SmartDrive; and Drive Space. * Intel's Pentium Problems Update, January 1995, by Robert C. Wynne, CPA This alert describes the problems identified in the first few Pentium computers, such as calculation problems and write-back cache problems. * Internet Vulnerability, February 1995, by Mark S. Eckman, CPA This alert details information about the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) and reports on a new method of breaking into computer systems directly linked to the Internet. The new attack makes use of a flaw in the design of the network to fool router computers into believing that a message is coming from a trusted source. By masquerading as an authorized computer, an attacker can gain access to protected computer resources and seize control of an otherwise well-defended system. * A Look at Satan, April 1995, reprinted with permission from Carnegie Mellon University This alert discusses the recent release on the Internet of a controversial computer program called Security Administrator Tool for Analyzing Networks (SATAN), used to detect computer system vulnerabilities.

Editor's note: Dr. Hicks and Mr. Love are members of the AICPA Tax Division Tax Computer Applications Committee.
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Title Annotation:issued by the AICPA Information Technology Membership Division
Author:Love, Jerry L.
Publication:The Tax Adviser
Date:Jan 1, 1996
Previous Article:The Tax Adviser is now available on CompuServe.
Next Article:CD-ROM update.

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