By George Avalos, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif. Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News

Apr. 6--Choirs of Internet users chanted the names of Satan and Courtney on Wednesday.

Satan and Courtney are the names of programs designed to enhance a computer's security. Traffic on the Internet surged Wednesday as computer on- line experts and enthusiasts raced to electronic sites to download free copies of Satan and Courtney.

Satan has been controversial. That's because it is a user-friendly Unix program that lets people probe for weaknesses in a system from a remote site via the Internet, a global web of computers.

Those who have sympathy for Satan say it can strengthen computer systems. However, critics who say they are on the side of the computer angels warn that Satan could tempt computer crackers to use the program to steal information.

Courtney is a program devised by Lawrence Livermore Laboratory scientist Marvin Christensen that will alert people that someone has probed their computers using Satan. Christensen named Courtney after his 18-month-old daughter.

The lab computer with the Courtney program, where copies of Satan are also available, was flooded with requests and shut down temporarily.

``We started it up again but it's still buried,'' Christensen said Wednesday afternoon.

Satan enticed more than 1,400 downloads from the lab's computer Wednesday, the first day the program was available. Courtney was downloaded more than 1,100 times, Christensen said.

The programs can be accessed via lab's World Wide Web site at

Internet access providers such as CCNet of Walnut Creek and NetRep of Livermore downloaded both programs. CCNet had to wait a long time to get through. NetRep downloaded from a site in the Netherlands.

One Internet expert said the Satan furor proves technology has both a good and bad side.

``It's not possible to do only positive things with technology,'' said Bill Washburn, an Internet consultant. ``Any ability to facilitate communications between humans can be used for good or ill. From the day we invented writing, we had the capability for profane writing as well as sacred writing.''

END!A3?CC-SATAN AP-NY-04-05-95 2245EDT This material is copyrighted and may not be republished without permission of the originating newspaper or wire service. NewsHound is a service of the San Jose Mercury News. For more information call 1-800-818-NEWS.