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NIST Revises Federal Computer Security Guide

May 1, 2013

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released the most comprehensive update to the government’s computer security guide since 2005. The fourth revision of “Security and Privacy Controls for Federal information Systems and Organizations” (SP 800-53) addresses issues such as mobile and cloud computing, applications security, supply chain risks and privacy concerns. It also calls for maintaining routine best practices to reduce information security risks while applying state-of-the-practice architecture and engineering principles to minimize the impact of threats such as cyber attacks.

The U.S. Defense Department, the intelligence community and the Committee on National Security Systems developed SP 800-53 as part of the Joint Task Force.

Army Network Testing 
Increases Commonality

May 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The same approach used to test and implement the Army’s single largest networking system is laying the groundwork for extending the network down to the individual soldier. As laboratory tests and field exercises validate the interoperability of separate elements in a network, system conflicts are giving way to greater commonality among different elements.

This effort has borne fruit in the evolution of the Warfighter Information Network–Tactical (WIN–T). The last fielding of WIN–T Increment 1 took place in August 2012, and WIN–T Increment 2 is taking the final steps toward deployment. Meanwhile, WIN–T Increment 3 is beginning to take shape.

As these increments progress toward full implementation, their test efforts are helping leaven out other capabilities. Greater interoperability testing of individual elements in a fully networked environment is allowing engineers to extend interoperable functions farther down the chain of command and into the hands of individual warfighters.

Col. Edward J. Swanson, USA, project manager WIN–T (PM WIN–T), explains that WIN–T Increment 1 provides a static networking capability for forces in the field. While it does not work on the move, soldiers can establish WIN–T linkage at the quick halt—they simply pull their vehicle off the road to a dead stop and immediately begin communications without a complicated setup. Newer WIN–T Increment 1 systems incorporate Joint Network Node Ka-band satellite connectivity, and its capabilities are deployed down to the battalion level. Col. Swanson describes WIN–T Increment 1 as “the backbone of the tactical network today.”

Nuclear Agency's Cloud Computing Plan Comes Together

March 20, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) began working on its Yourcloud solution about two years ago and expects to have the cloud computing solution in place by year's end. You can read more about this in "U.S. Nuclear Agency Enhances Cybersecurity With Cloud Computing
." 

One of the surprises along the way to cloud was that NNSA is not alone in the problems it needs to solve, according to Travis Howerton, NNSA chief technology officer. "When we first started putting this together, I would have thought that we were more unique than we are, but when I traveled around talking to other chief information officers and other leaders in government agencies, or even in the commercial sector, everybody's struggling with the same set of issues," Howerton observes. "In general, what surprised me is how much synergy there is in trying to solve this problem government-wide. We're happy to be part of that overall ecosystem and to share with others what we're doing that may be helpful."

Agency officials spent about a year developing a strategic plan for transformation, which includes three pillars: the NNSA Network Vision (2NV), which modernizes the current computing environment by providing a secure, mobile, agile and adaptive IT infrastructure that will allow the NNSA workforce to perform their duties from any device, anywhere, any time; the Joint Cybersecurity Coordination Center (JC3), which provides the agency a capability for understanding the health of the systems, data and network; and the Cyber Sciences Laboratory (CSL), which establishes a process through which theoretical research in IT and cybersecurity can be rapidly applied to operational computing environments.

 

 

Military Moves on Mobile

March 4, 2013

Despite continued budget crunching, U.S. Defense Department officials are continuing to implement a three-phase plan to equip the department’s 600,000 mobile-device users with secure classified and protected unclassified mobile solutions that leverage commercial products. In conjunction with the Defense Information Systems Agency, the department’s chief information officer is establishing a basic multivendor mobility capability with the Defense Department for assessment. This first phase, which continues through April, deploys voice and data services over a commercial wireless network, and a contract will be awarded for the department’s initial enterprise mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application store (MAS). Phase two, which is set to last nine months, will focus on creating a security and service delivery infrastructure to support several competitive acquisition options. During the final phase, set to begin in October 2013, an operational capability will be offered to all Defense Department entities as a subscription-based service. Work is contingent on the availability of fiscal year 2013 and fiscal 2014 funding.
 

 

Customs and Border Protection Agency Eyes the Cloud

February 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. agency responsible for customs and border protection has suffered from an unreliable infrastructure and network downtimes but already is seeing benefits from a fledgling move to cloud computing. Those benefits include greater reliability and efficiency and lower costs.

Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) priorities include moving the agency to cloud computing and adopting greater use of mobile devices. The CBP Cloud Computing Environment (C3E) moves the agency away from a number of stovepipe platforms. “In the past, we’ve run about every kind of platform that’s out there. We are a large IBM mainframe legacy shop. We use a lot of AIX Unix and also Solaris Unix, so we’ve even got different flavors of Unix out there, and then obviously, big Windows farms,” reveals Charlie Armstrong, CBP chief information officer and assistant commissioner for the office of information and technology. “This new environment that we’re moving to collapses a lot of that down into a single environment and loses all of the mainframe, and it gets us out of building environments from scratch.”

Armstrong describes CBP as being in the early stages of its move to the cloud, but the agency already is seeing benefits, he says. He compares creating a computing environment to building cars. “Building an environment with yesterday’s approach was like going to the car dealership, buying all the parts and having to put the car together yourself. Now, what we’re trying to do is to buy a fully integrated product that allows us to stand up environments quicker and also improve performance,” he explains.

Cyber, China Challenges Loom Large for U.S. Military

February 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

West 2013 Online Show Daily, Day 3

Quote of the Day: “Make no mistake: the PLAN is focused on war at sea and sinking an opposing fleet.”—Capt. Jim Fanell, USN, deputy chief of staff for intelligence and information operations, U.S. Pacific Fleet

Two separate issues, both on the rise, have become increasing concerns for U.S. military planners. The technology-oriented world of cyber and the geopolitical challenge of a growing Chinese military are dynamic issues that will be major focus points for the U.S. defense community in the foreseeable future.

Cyber security is becoming increasingly complex because of the plethora of new information technologies and capabilities entering the force. Security planners must strike a balance between effectively protecting these new information systems and imposing constraints that would wipe out most of the gains they offer.

China, the world’s rising economic power, is evolving into a military power with a reach that extends increasingly beyond its littoral waters. The U.S. strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is likely to enmesh U.S. military forces in local issues to a greater degree, and China’s steady growth in military strength will affect how international relations evolve in that vast region.

AFCEA Source Book Goes Mobile

January 15, 2013

The AFCEA 2013 Source Book is now available in both digital and app formats. The searchable digital version is available at www.afceasourcebookdirectory-digital.com. It includes corporate profiles for all AFCEA corporate members with all email addresses and company websites hyperlinked. The Source Book also includes descriptions of AFCEA chapters as well as functional and governing committees.

Mobile Device Management? There Will Be an App Store for That

October 30, 2012

Following the lead set by NASA, the Department of Veterans Affairs and several other federal agencies, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has posted a solicitation for an enterprisewide Mobile Device Management system and Mobile Application Store (MDM-MAS). As many as 260,000 devices could reach authorized security resources and data initially through the DISA app store, which could eventually expand to support the needs of the entire Defense Department. The app store solicitation calls for a system to ensure adherence to all security requirements for devices operating on the DISA network and, if needed, allow security officials to remotely wipe devices that are either lost or otherwise compromised by hackers. The MDM-MAS also could be used to push authorized applications to employees’ smartphones and tablets. DISA expects to keep the cost of the proposed app store manageable by using commercially available hardware and software.

 

Managing Change in the
 Intelligence Community

October 1, 2012
By Max Cacas

A new computing architecture emphasizes shared resources.

The nation’s intelligence community has embarked on a path toward a common computer desktop and a cloud computing environment designed to facilitate both timely sharing of information and cost savings. The implementation could result in budget savings of 20 to 25 percent over existing information technology spending within six years, but the ramifications could include large cultural changes that result both in lost jobs and business for industry partners.

Al Tarasiuk, chief intelligence officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), explains that the changes will be difficult. Agency employees, and the vendors who help operate and manage information technology for the 17 agencies composing the nation’s intelligence apparatus, will feel the effects of the cost cuts.

“Right now, technology is not our biggest risk. The culture change is our biggest risk, and that extends to our industry partners. We have a lot of industry employed in the community through service contracts and other things. They could help, or they could choose not to help,” Tarasiuk emphasizes, candidly describing the pivotal role of these firms in a transition that could spell the loss of both business and jobs. “They know, and I’ve been very open with them, that we’re not going to need the pool of resources of people that we have today to manage what we have in the future.”

DISA Strategic Plan Seeks to Eliminate Ambiguities

September 12, 2012
By Robert K. Ackerman

The defense information technology realm is exploding with innovation—so much so, the organizations tasked with ensuring effective information systems run the risk of losing control of both the process and its capabilities. The Defense Information Systems Agency has issued a new strategic plan that outlines its approach to ensuring advanced technology implementation without reining in innovation.

 

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