Tech Roundup

Network defense, the cloud takes off and the rat factor.

Network Defense

The Obama administration is expanding to all military contractors a computer security program that shares classified threat information. After a year of trials with select vendors, the Defense Industrial Base, or DIB, cybersecurity pilot program will invite all military vendors and their Internet service providers to voluntarily join the two-way information-sharing initiative.

The National Security Agency, the Pentagon’s code-cracking branch, will disclose the “signatures,” or unique hallmarks, of identified malicious programs so that vendors can incorporate those red flags into antivirus software. In return, companies must report known breaches of defense information to the government within 72 hours after discovering an incident.

Companies are allowed, but not obligated, to disclose such incidents to the larger contracting community. The Defense Department, however, can circulate intrusion reports stripped of identifying information among participants, other agencies and certain non-defense contractors. 

The administration is making this move during a heated debate over public-private computer security. Currently, the White House is at odds with the House and some Republican senators over legislation modeled after the DIB cyber pilot that would allow other federal agencies and critical sectors to exchange similar intelligence. The administration argues the 2011 Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, does not contain enough personal privacy protections and stops short of regulating certain security protocols for private industry.

Republicans maintain that the government should not control a company’s security practices. But both contingents agree valuable federal and business information has become all too susceptible
to hacks.

- Aliya Sternstein

The Cloud Takes Off

The federal government in June began accepting security certification applications from companies that provide software services and data storage through the cloud.

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program aims to protect federal data as agencies increasingly turn to Web-based storage and computing.

By creating industrywide standards and focusing more on risk management, as opposed to strict compliance with reporting metrics, officials expect to improve data security and simplify the processes agencies use to purchase cloud services, says Katie Lewin, director of the federal cloud computing program at the General
Services Administration. 

FedRAMP aims to speed the adoption of cloud services and reduce the cost and time required to conduct redundant agency security assessments. A key component of the program will be third-party assessors—independent auditors with the technical expertise to evaluate applicants’ offerings. As of early June, nine firms had been accredited for performing that role.

- Katherine McIntire Peters

Performance Issues

The Office of Management and Budget has fully completed only three of the 10 pillars of its information technology reform plan, despite having declared in December 2011 that it had closed out seven, a government watchdog says. 

Recently, the Government Accountability Office picked the 10 disputed agenda items from OMB’s 2010 25-point plan to reform IT management. David Powner, director of GAO’s IT team, said many agencies haven’t established firm metrics for how data center closures will translate into savings. Declaring victory too soon could lead to sloppy performance down the road and erase OMB’s early gains, Powner says.

- Joseph Marks

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