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Showing posts with the label Government News

Congress Tackles Data Breaches, Russian Meddling and IT Modernization

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The Modernizing Government Technology Act received new life last week with its inclusion in the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act, but the IT modernization legislation isn’t a done deal yet. Meanwhile, Congress will take a hard look at cybersecurity policies at two agencies this week: the State Department, which plans to shutter a cyber office, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which disclosed this week that one of its systems was breached.Will Facebook Become Friends with House Intel? Will Twitter Follow?Facebook should testify in an open hearing about fake ads Russian operatives placed on the social media site, the committee’s ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Thursday.The statement came after Facebook turned over thousands of those ads to committee investigators who are probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Schiff also called on Google and Twitter to participate in open hearings.Facebook will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committe…

DHS Commercializes Two Nature-Themed Cyber Products

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The Homeland Security Department has successfully transitioned two federally-funded pieces of cybersecurity technology to be marketed to the commercial tech sector.Scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory modeled MLSTONES and Digital Ants after phenomena found in nature. MLSTONES is a set of algorithms that use principles from protein sequencing to identify similarities in data sets—it searches large data sets for smaller ones, zeroing in on segments of malicious code. Digital Ants uses sensors that search networks for key metrics like CPU usage and network bandwidth. If those sensors find malware, they draw other sensors — just as one insect might attract a swarm of others — to the anomaly, and then notify system administrators.The products were licensed as part of the Science and Technology Directorate’s Transition to Practice Program, designed to make federally-developed systems commercially viable. For that program, S&T prioritizes technology that fills an “exis…

These 'Robocops' Can Detect Weapons

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Some robots are designed to deliver you food or help you with chores, but these new robots from Knightscope are more focused on security and surveillance, specifically designed to autonomously monitor indoor and outdoor areas for potential threats. So in the near future you might spy them in malls and airports, patrolling alongside human security guards.One Knighscope Robot, the K1, uses the same millimeter wave technology used at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in airports. It can determine the size and shape of weapons, and even detect radiation if the situation calls for it.  K1 will also be put in use at airports in the future, particularly at luggage collection areas .All Knightscope robots collect and process data from a range of sensors including sonar, lidar and thermal imaging. Companies monitor the data and activity and implement security measures based on their findings. In 2018 the company will add a new feature, "Audio Event Detection," which …

The Air Force Will Dole Out $1 Billion for Cloud Migration

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The U.S. Air Force will spend up to $1 billion over the next five years to migrate more than 750,000 of its users to cloud-based email, communications and other services.Three companies – Dell EMC, General Dynamics and Microsoft – partnered to win the Air Force’s new Cloud Hosted Enterprise Services contract, which is a follow-on to a previous Air Force pilot effort called Collaboration Pathfinder aimed at deploying Microsoft 365 across portions of the military branch.The same three companies owned that previous business, migrating some 140,000 users to cloud-based email, records management, office productivity and other services since 2015, and they’ll expand the scope of their work under the CHES contract to several hundred thousand more users in the Air Force, Defense Logistics Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.“This contract provides a solution for unified communications that accelerates migration to cloud-based IT and communications capabilities while enabling the warfighte…

What Facebook Told Congress Suggests its Russian Ad Problem Could Be Bigger Than it Looks

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Earlier this month, Facebook admitted that Russian-linked ad buyers had spent $150,000 on US political ads during the 2016 election campaign. But there could have been more ads bought than that, according to people briefed in recent days on the company’s closed-door testimony to Congress. And those ads probably also had more impact than previously assumed, because they led users to steady streams of other content.Facebook executives appeared in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee that is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election earlier this month and today (Sept. 21). Two people briefed on the testimony told Quartz that Facebook first started looking at whether Russian ad buyers had tried to influence the 2016 US election this spring.Facebook’s initial search was for buyers who took out potentially political ads and either self-identified as Russian, had Russian set as their language, had a Russian IP address, or paid for the ad in Russian rubles. T…

The Network of Tomorrow Can Drive Cost Savings and Better Performance

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David Mihelcic is the federal chief technology and strategy officer for Juniper Networks.When you think about the network of the future, what do you envision? If you’re just thinking “automation,” you may not be thinking big enough. That’s because, as with most things in technology, today’s innovation in automation is really only a stepping point to what comes next. For federal IT, “next” means intent-based networking.Intent-based networking uses high-level business outcomes to drive network configurations and performance. It’s much different than the traditional approach involving granular, difficult to understand, machine-level specifications. An intent-based network allows teams to determine and define business outcomes, which are then compiled into detailed configurations that are automatically implemented by the network.» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox.Sign up here.In the very near future, intent-based networking will allow government…

Swiss Researchers Invent Way to Let Mini Drones See in the Dark

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Camera-armed multi-rotor drones take greatpictures…during the day. But if they are to guide themselves through darkened rooms and buildings, they need to see in low-light conditions while quickly moving. A new type of visual sensor developed by Swiss researchers will allow drones to see as human eyes do. That will enable small drones to be more useful in both “civilian and military applications,” such as finding people trapped in rubble or during complex urban warfare scenarios, the research team’s head said.Conventional cameras work by collecting lots of information about light (specifically, its intensity). They treat all the data equally, which is fine for taking single pictures. But when the light is low, or when the camera is moving, as it would on a drone, that technique produces blurred pictures that don’t convey any useful information.  The Dynamic Vision Sensor, or DVS, works differently. “Instead of wastefully sending entire images at fixed frame rates, only the local pixel-…

You're Turning Off Wi-fi and Bluetooth Wrong

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If you've downloaded the new operating system for your iPhone, iOS 11, there are a lot of fun things you can do to customize it to your liking.  There is one thing you can't do, however, and that is turn off bluetooth and wifi with a quick tap on the control center.While those buttons still exist, they don't fully turn off the features. Instead, pressing those buttons will remove your phone from any existing bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections. But at 5 a.m., they will both automatically turn back on. And if you move to new location, your Wi-Fi will return.Most of the time, smartphone users would want to keep both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on, as most of the apps and features on a device don't work without them. But if you're trying to conserve your smartphone's battery or are in a public setting where you might be vulnerable to hackers, being able to turn off both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is essential.Thankfully, there is a way to turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi complete…

What’s Blockchain’s Role In The Public Good?

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Some federal agencies are experimenting with Blockchain—the same decentralized ledger system that keeps a record of every Bitcoin transaction—as a means for tracking adjustments to certain documents.The General Services Administration, for instance, is investigating using Blockchain as a piece of a pilot that aims to automate the process by which it reviews bids on federal contracts. GSA is also gathering ideas for other Blockchain pilots from federal leaders.But at least one non-governmental group is investigating ways the ledger system could be used for a broader goal: ensuring that the public trusts their government.The National Democratic Institute, a nonprofit focused on government transparency, is partnering with the New America Foundation and Bitfury, a Blockchain technology company, to pilot Blockchain projects that might benefit the public good. They call their collaboration the “Blockchain Trust Accelerator,” in which Bitfury develops the technology pro bono for various fede…

Meet the 17-Year-Old Who Hacked the U.S. Air Force

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Jack Cable is 17 years old. With a thin build and large, square glasses, he looks like any unassuming high school senior from the Chicago suburbs. Except he’s a military-grade hacker.Cable recently finished first in Hack the Air Force, a Pentagon-sponsored bug bounty program that recruited ethical hackers to find security holes within Air Force networks. In total, the service paid out $130,000 for 207 vulnerabilities hackers uncovered in the competition. Cable himself found more than 30 of those, including one faulty admin panel that could have been exploited to upload files and modify content on a military website.Cable is ranked 73rd overall among members of HackerOne, a worldwide community of thousands of hackers that organizes bug bounties in the public and private sector. His success in Hack the Air Force helped him rise to fifth in the group’s third quarter rankings.The bug bounty program comes at a time when the government finds itself struggling to attract top talent like Cabl…

Facebook's New 'AI Camera' Team Wants to Add a Layer to the World

Hackers Broke Into SEC Computer Systems and May Have Traded on the Stolen Information

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Hackers broke into the systems of the top US securities regulator last year, and may have used confidential information to trade in the stock market. The Securities and Exchange Commission said yesterday that criminals exploited a software vulnerability in its filing system. While the breach was detected in 2016 and the weakness patched, the SEC says it wasn’t until last month that the agency realized the information may have been exploited through stock market trades.It’s the second disclosure this month that cyber criminals exploited records entrusted to a key US financial institution. Credit reporting company Equifax said on Sept. 7 that hackers had stolen personal information, such as social Social Security numbers and birth dates, for about half the nation’s population. In the SEC hack, the agency says personal data wasn’t stolen.Instead, hackers broke into the SEC’s database of filings, called Edgar (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval system), which houses informa…

Veterans Affairs CIO Stepping Down

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Rob Thomas, who has been the Veterans Affairs Department’s acting chief information officer since January, announced his retirement this week.The news, first reported by Federal News Radio, means VA will see its third top technology official over the past nine months. Thomas took the helm as acting CIO earlier this year after Obama appointee LaVerne Council left government following a change in administration.In an email to staff, Thomas – who worked for the government for 35 years – said he would retire in October. Thomas will be replaced by Scott Blackburn effective this week. Blackburn was appointed by VA Secretary David Shulkin to the department’s acting deputy secretary position in February.While Thomas was not a permanent CIO, his retirement adds to the intrigue of a seemingly rotating door of agency technology leaders across government. His exit follows a wave of five other high-profile CIO departures at the departments of Treasury and Agriculture and other agencies, leaving 11…

You Can Now Take an Online Course to Learn How to Build a Flying or Self-Driving Car

Vint Cerf's Think Tank: Internet Rulemaking Is Going to Get More Complicated

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A nonprofit founded by Google’s chief internet evangelist has an urgent message for governments globally: governments and society need to collaborate on tech policy.In a new report from the Internet Society, a think tank founded by Vint Cerf, authors recommend governments take a “multistakeholder” approach—inviting members of the public and representatives from various industries—to create “consensus policy” surrounding the internet. They could determine what should be censored, how encryption affects national security, and whether citizens maintain their personal freedoms online.That approach is distinct from the “multilateral” approach in which several governments work together, excluding representatives from civil society.» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox.Sign up here.As cybersecurity incidents, and potentially ones that affect many countries at once, are likely to become more common, governments are increasingly pressured to quell those…

Federal Blockchain Projects Face a Familiar Talent Problem

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Federal agencies are experimenting with blockchain technology—the tracking system that keeps bitcoin exchanges from being adjusted—but they might not have the talent to implement it.At the General Services Administration, where a blockchain proof-of-concept is currently under way, “we lack the personnel that have any type of technical training in this particular technology,”  Michelle White, GSA’s director of shared services and IT products for contract operations, told an audience at an ACT-IAC event.GSA has been investigating how, or whether, to use the ledger system to track steps in the procurement process. Procurement officials at GSA are trying to automate the process by which contract proposals are evaluated for its Multiple Award Schedules FASt Lane program, which intends to speed up the amount of time it takes to get on a GSA purchasing schedule.There are some efforts to increase blockchain technical expertise in government, White said. For instance, GSA’s Technology Transfor…

Judge Tosses OPM Breach Lawsuits, Plaintiffs Appeal

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A federal judge tossed out a lawsuit Tuesday from a group of federal employees who say gross negligence by the Office of Personnel Management contributed to the office’s 2015 data breach that exposed sensitive security clearance information about more than 20 million people.The lawsuit filed by the National Treasury Employees Union can’t go forward because the employees can’t prove they were actually harmed by the breach, Judge Amy Jackson said.The personnel office breach is widely believed to have been a Chinese intelligence operation aimed at identifying high-placed government employees who might be vulnerable to bribes or blackmail. The breach focused on SF-86 forms, highly sensitive security clearance documents where prospective employees describe troubles with money, romantic relationships and substance abuse among other topics. The breach also included a smaller number of fingerprints.» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox.Sign up here.As …

Symantec CEO: Get Commercial Software Off National Security Systems

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The biggest security vulnerability in U.S. national security computer systems may be the commercial software they’re built on, Symantec’s CEO Greg Clark said Wednesday.The inner workings of Tomahawk missiles aren’t publicly available and the computer systems that store sensitive national security data shouldn’t be either, the leader of the anti-virus firm said during an address at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security.Under the current system, U.S. cyber adversaries can find out which software systems the U.S. military is most reliant on simply by searching federal contracting databases, Clark said. Then they can set about searching for vulnerabilities in those systems.» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox.Sign up here.“We are handing our adversaries the key…the map to how to beat us,” he said.The comments echoed an op-ed, Clark publishes in The Hill newspaper earlier Wednesday.Clark’s argument runs counter to th…

Is Trump's 'Wiretap' Claim Vindicated?

Lockheed Martin Tops Federal IT Rankings

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Lockheed Martin. Northrop Grumman. Leidos. IBM. Dell.These companies are among the most well-known suppliers of hardware, software and IT services, and not surprisingly, they top IDC Government Insights latest Federal IT Rankings.Released today, the rankings evaluate vendors based on total government IT sales over the past calendar year and funnel companies into two categories: Those that derive more than one-third of their revenue from government and enterprise companies that do not.  Despite selling off its IT business to Leidos last year for $5 billion, Lockheed Martin took the top spot among companies that sell primarily to the government. Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin was followed by Northrop Grumman System, Leidos, Battelle Memorial Institute, Raytheon, DynCorp International, CACI, CSRA, L-3 National Security Systems and General Dynamics.» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox.Sign up here.These rankings could shift due to recent mergers a…