Tech Roundup

Cybersecurity pilot, going mobile, gaming better weapons and the Navy's inventory challenge.


Taking The Lead 

The Homeland Security Department is taking over a heralded Pentagon project that shared classified intelligence with select military contractors and their communications providers.

The new arrangement puts DHS, the civilian agency responsible for facilitating the protection of private critical infrastructure, in charge of communicating with private Internet service providers. The Defense Department will continue to be the point of contact for contractors, officials say.

In summer 2011, National Security Agency employees, the military’s code breakers, had been disclosing to contractors their ISP signatures—the unique fingerprints of threats—for uploading into virus-detection systems. The goal of the so-called DIB Cybersecurity Pilot was to block intruders from accessing the computers and networks that support Pentagon operations.

The Obama administration opted to temporarily extend what was originally a 90-day initiative, DHS officials said in January.

The program remains restricted to the initial participating companies while all parties refine procedures based on lessons gleaned from the trial run. Wide interest from the military industry has sparked talks of expanding the program to all Defense Department companies and, perhaps, nondefense critical sectors, such as the power and banking industries.

During the extension, data will be exchanged only among company workers and Defense and Homeland Security personnel who have security clearances, according to a Jan. 13 privacy notice.

Firms that choose to share information about incidents are prohibited from providing customer data that identifies individuals. The threat indicators divulged by government officials, however, can contain personal information, such as email addresses or other content from infected messages.

Aliya Sternstein

Going Mobile

Easy sharing, flexibility and common standards should be major pillars of federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel’s forthcoming mobile roadmap, government workers and the public argue in an online dialogue. 

The dialogue will help officials flesh out the mobile strategy VanRoekel announced early this year. 

The mobile roadmap, a final draft of which is due this month, will tackle how the government buys and manages employee smartphones and tablets, plus how agencies build, buy and use mobile applications, either to oversee internal functions or to communicate with the public. VanRoekel plans to launch new mobile procurement vehicles by June or July. 

One suggestion is to create a public shared services catalog where agencies can post “the building blocks of [mobile] apps,” such as source code and programming interfaces. Other agencies or citizens then could use those building blocks to create separate apps without duplicating efforts.

Joseph Marks

Game On

The Pentagon plans to fork over $32 million to develop computer games that can refine the way weapons systems are tested. The goal is to create puzzles that are “intuitively understandable by ordinary people” and can be solved on consumer devices. The  solutions will be collected into a database and used to improve methods for analyzing software, according to the solicitation by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

As weapons systems have grown more complex, methods for verifying that the software running on them is glitch-free and secure have fallen short. Crowdsourcing this complicated task would help cut costs while the Pentagon grapples with a shortage of computer specialists.

Dawn Lim


The Navy’s Inventory Challenge

The Navy has 286 ships loaded with computers and gadgets, but the service’s top network guy has no clear idea of how many or what gizmos actually exist. Capt. D.J. LeGoff, program manager for Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, says the service hasn’t tracked everything it has installed incrementally over the years.

Marine Brig. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant, assistant wing commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, says stuff disappears: Marines install nifty antennas on amphibious ships only to have the Navy take them off when the ships go into yards for maintenance.

LeGoff says when the Navy starts installing the new CANES networks, nothing will be installed willy-nilly and there will be a master plan. Hopefully this plan will include Marine antennas.

Bob Brewin