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January 31, 2017
By Ray Rothrock
Image credit: www.bluecoat.com

As the nation deals with intelligence reports of Russian hacks of the U.S. presidential election, some of us in industry are pondering how President Donald Trump will tackle cybersecurity issues.

He already has a good road map. In December, the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity issued its “Report on Securing and Growing the Digital Economy.” Kudos are in order. It is high time the executive branch dug deeply into cybersecurity issues.

February 28, 2017
by Phil O'Reilly
U.S. Navy personnel learn about the Office of Naval Research's suite of information technology tools designed to improve fleet operations.

As we near the end of the first quarter of this new year, it seems like a perfect time to introduce and discuss four new "resolutions," if you will, for federal information technology managers and what a new action plan for progress might look like.

Without further ado, let's dive right in. 

February 27, 2017
By Ben Sharfi
A Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle tackles rough terrain during training at an air base in Southwest Asia.

Open standards are easy to love. With a common, defined computing system, anybody can port their applications to them and the software syncs beautifully, simplifying upgrades and providing flexibility in customers’ choice of supplier. One U.S. Army crack at open standards provides a good example of the expectation, which was to correct the problems created by the bolted-on approach of field equipment on vehicles. Unfortunately, like far too many of such standards, the Vehicular Integration for C4ISR/EW Interoperability, or VICTORY, falls flat on implementation.

February 8, 2017
By Bill Lemons

For the past several years, U.S. federal agencies have undergone a concerted effort to consolidate and streamline their data centers. As such, they’ve ramped up initiatives to drive application requirements to the cloud, used virtualization services whenever possible to improve efficiencies and deployed sensors to monitor power consumption.

January 30, 2017
By Charlie Kawasaki
A U.S. Marine uses a tablet to communicate in real-time during the Infantry Officer’s Course.

The ability of warfighters to be mobile and nimble is not a luxury during combat operations. It is an absolute necessity. Staying ahead of the enemy or avoiding attack often means an entire command post must move, and quickly—a mammoth challenge if the command post relies on a wired communications network with cumbersome and costly cables and equipment.

December 9, 2016
By Rob Morrow

Right at this moment, hundreds of U.S. government analysts are trying to solve the exact same problem. Each is tackling a number of major national and international security issues, from cyberthreats to terrorism, global health crises and public safety problems. Without easy, trusted data sharing, these analysts, who the nation relies on to solve the most challenging of worries, cannot benefit from shared knowledge—a hurdle that adds to inefficiencies fostered by redundancies, reinforcing the public’s perception of ineffective federal bureaucracy.

December 20, 2016
By Capt. Kenneth Parks, USN (Ret.)

There’s no disputing technology’s role in the rapidly changing face of modern warfare. The convergence of commercial services with military applications, such as delivery of real-time data from anywhere using various devices, has changed the physical nature and understanding of what constitutes a combat environment. The U.S. military seeks to define a strategic approach to these converged operations.

December 8, 2016
By Tony Bardo
A U.S. soldier talks with his wife on Facebook at an Internet cafe set up at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.

With U.S. military troops stationed in nearly 150 countries, the force is the primary safeguard for ensuring national security—domestically and abroad. Each day, military personnel sacrifice time from family and risk their lives to protect the interests of the country—which is why, in 1903, Congress authorized the Defense Department to build, operate and maintain libraries, schools, recreation centers and gyms for the warfighters.

November 29, 2016
By Joe Kim

While it’s clear the cloud is the future of government IT, concerns surrounding cloud security continue to abound. Some agency IT personnel remain skittish about handing over data to cloud service providers and skeptical that the data will remain out of the hands of bad actors. As a result, they’re more comfortable housing information in legacy IT systems, even if those systems are, in some cases, decades old and prone to security vulnerabilities.

In truth, deploying a cloud IT infrastructure is ideal for managing today’s ever-changing threat landscape, for several reasons. Here are three reasons why.

November 28, 2016
By David Young

When we think about critical infrastructure, specifically the sectors the Department of Homeland Security has deemed essential to the wellbeing of the country, rarely does the idea center on public networking assets to support critical infrastructure. But a rapid transformation of network technology and security improved processes so that agencies now can take advantage of combined public and private networking to accomplish information technology goals.

November 22, 2016
By Ben Sharfi
A soldier from 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division demonstrates Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2 and Mission Command on the move applications during Network Integration Evaluation 12.1.

It seems like a simple choice. You need to upgrade a platform’s computing capabilities—whether on a ground vehicle, a fast-delivery ship, a signal’s intelligence airplane or in a server room—but some of the existing hardware still is salvageable. Rather than do a complete upgrade from scratch, it is possible to leverage much of the existing technology and retain existing racks, power supplies and mass storage in the retrofit. It makes perfect sense: Why throw away parts that seem to be working? But a closer inspection might reveal a different answer. Let’s peel back a few layers and see why—and when—it might make sense to throw away existing equipment and start over.

November 14, 2016
By David Young

The Department of Homeland Security’s Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience (CISR) month serves as a reminder to not only understand, but appreciate, the various critical infrastructure sectors that play vital roles in the national and economic security of the United States. As a veteran of the telecom industry, my focus is to support those network infrastructure centers underlying these sectors. How do we improve networking capabilities within these sectors, not only addressing today’s complicated requirements, but allowing for continued innovation?

November 9, 2016
By Ralph Wade

An impression exists among senior government officials that moving command, control, communication, computers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems into the cloud is overhyped. They question whether this will improve operational effectiveness. I admit I once shared these reservations, but recently evolved on the subject and now see a compelling rationale for moving C4ISR into the cloud. 

November 8, 2016
By Joe Kim

More than a decade ago—2003 to be precise—the Defense Department announced plans to convert its network to the Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) standard. Today, the wait continues.

By David Young

Discussions about the nation’s critical infrastructure usually focus on aging networks, some more than 50 years old. A most stunning fact was highlighted in a recent a Government Accountability Office report, which revealed some Defense Department control systems still use 8-inch floppy disks to store data related to nuclear operations.

By Joe Kim

Ensuring that deployed U.S. troops can communicate and exchange information is critical to the military’s missions. That said, there are numerous challenges in deploying the high-speed tactical networks that make this communication possible. How, for example, do you make sure these networks are available when needed? What is the best way to maintain data integrity? The accuracy of the data—such as troop location—is just as important as network availability.

Network security of course also is critical. Specifically with tactical Wi-Fi networks, it is crucial to ensure our military personnel are the only ones accessing the network and there is no exfiltration going on undetected.

October 17, 2016
By Aubrey Merchant-Dest

Last year, the Defense Department issued the Cybersecurity Culture and Compliance Initiative (DC3I), a memorandum containing alarming statistics on the actual number of successful network compromises and their causes, and principles for guiding daily operations for network users. The good news is that out of 30 million known malicious intrusions occurring over 10 months, 99.9 percent were prevented.

September 15, 2016
By J. Wayne Lloyd

When it comes to cybersecurity, I have heard many people express consternation and wonderment as to why the government cannot protect the Internet. It boils down to two things: No authorization, and officials only have visibility into a scant number of networks under their control. 

August 5, 2016
By Ralph Wade
A U.S. Air Force target system analyst assigned to the 15th Intelligence Squadron, 363rd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, 363rd ISR Wing provides training using a simulated satellite constellation at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

As discussed in my last post, to meet the needs of the nation’s combatant commands (COCOMs) and National Command Authority, government and industry must evolve the current intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, sensors and ground systems into a truly global ISR enterprise. An incremental approach must be combined with overarching actions to migrate to common ISR information technology infrastructures, orchestrated toward the larger goal of an integrated ISR enterprise. This can be done through three DOD ISR focus areas: 

August 23, 2016
By Ed Hammersla

The world of intelligence sharing has gone from on a need-to-know basis between federal agencies to one in which those key players must, by necessity, combine disparate pieces of intel to ascertain a complete picture of potential threats.

By Joe Kim

There is no escaping the barrage of technology and devices ever-present in our modern lives. Consider that many middle school kids today are iPhone-wielding and Fitbit-wearing youngsters.

The public sector workplace is no different. Federal IT professionals must consider the sheer volume and variety of devices connecting to their networks—from fitness wearables to laptops, tablets and smartphones. The Internet of Things and the cloud also significantly impact bandwidth and present security concerns, spurred by incidents such as the Office of Personnel Management breach of 2014.

By Maria Horton

We are little more than halfway through 2016, and it is safe to say that “regulatory compliance” are the cybersecurity buzzwords of the year. Regulatory compliance is not just a government or specialty market issue. Today, it applies to private contractors offering cloud, Internet of Things and other solutions within the federal marketplace. 

August 16, 2016
By Mav Turner

When we think of cyber attacks, we generally picture a lone wolf hacker or Anonymous-type organization. But foreign governments are also formidable threats. Take a moment to scan the headlines and you’ll see that articles about cyber hacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Democratic National Committee—among many others—have been attributed to North Korea and Russia.

August 11, 2016
By John Halksworth

Air gapping is a security measure that isolates a computer or a network so it cannot be accessed or hacked by an external entity. It's a useful technique that adds a security layer for companies and government agencies, especially those handling classified, confidential information often susceptible to hacking attempts. Although air-gapping systems offer extra security, recent malware-based attacks and other threats have created a new set of risks that organizations must manage in unique ways.

August 8, 2016
By Marvin Marin

One often-overlooked aspect of software development is how much programmers rely on open source libraries and packages for prewritten functions. Instead of writing code from scratch, or even copying and pasting code from one program into a new one, programmers often rely on what is called a dependency, the technical term for a shortcut to code maintained by a cloud service provider. Using the method makes a new program dependent on the existence and availability of that particular module. If that dependency is not available or the code functionality is broken, the entire program fails.

July 29, 2016
By Ralph Wade
U.S. Army soldiers with Company D, 52nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conduct a preflight inspection of an RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial system at a base in Iraq.

While attending an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) conference about a year ago, a senior U.S. military member stated that the best approach to modernizing and evolving ISR capabilities was through incremental steps. He used a baseball metaphor, saying, “We need to try to hit a series of singles rather than swing for the fences and try to do something big.” He cited a series of large ISR programs valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars that eventually were canceled, shelved or yielded little in terms of new capabilities.

July 14, 2016
By David E. Meadows

In December, my monthly blog was an article titled Quantum, Artificial Intelligence, Dilbert and Duct Tape. Quantum interests me. "Dilbert" I read daily, and duct tape saved the protagonist in Andy Weir’s novel "The Martian." It’s not that I understand basic principles of quantum mechanics, but there is so much that quantum mechanics and its associated physics offer that crosses so many technological fields and means for the future of space exploration.

July 19, 2016
By Joe Kim

It wasn’t too long ago that the Defense Department embarked on a Cybersecurity Discipline Implementation Plan identifying specific tasks that department’s IT personnel must perform to reinforce basic cybersecurity requirements identified in policies, directives and orders across the agency.

The plan, publicly unveiled in March after being amended, segments tasks into four key “lines of effort” to strengthen cybersecurity initiatives:

July 12, 2016
By Bob Kimball

It’s no exaggeration to say the networking industry is going through a period of near-unprecedented change. The explosion of software defined network (SDN) concepts over the past few years brings great promise for new networking capabilities and increased economies of scale. The rapid adoption of SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV) by global telecommunications service providers will continue to drive the rapid evolution and standardization. Additionally, SDN will bring many benefits to enterprise securities yet to be fully explored or imagined.

A New Security Approach

June 2, 2016
By Joel Dolisy

No one needs reliable connectivity more than the nation’s armed forces, especially during the heat of battle. But reliable connectivity often can be hampered by a hidden enemy: latency and bandwidth concerns.

The military heavily relies on voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) for calls, web conferencing, high-definition video sharing and other bandwidth-heavy applications. While this might sound more like the communication tool for a business boardroom, it is equally applicable within the military and compromised systems come with potentially life-altering consequences.

May 23, 2016
By Max Emelianov

April marked one of the largest data breaches in history, with 11.5 million confidential documents leaked online. How did it happen—and what can we learn from it?  

By now, you’ve probably heard all about the so-termed Panama Papers, one of the largest data leaks in history. The law firm Mossack Fonseca, a firm that specialized in helping clients create offshore financial holdings, reported that 11.5 million confidential documents leaked online, comprising more than 2 terabytes of data.

May 19, 2016
By Bob Fortna
Realizing benefits such as lighter and more agile equipment, the Army has launched a steady march toward network modernization, evident through efforts such as the Project Manager Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (PM WIN-T).

For too long, warfighters have struggled with issues of space, weight and power, each posing major problems in tactical environments. Networking equipment historically has contributed to all three—barriers that must be expunged. Soldiers must travel light. Humvees that barely fit four people must serve as both transport vehicles and portable communication hubs. And networks must be powerful yet agile.

Virtualization eliminates dependence on bulky and balky legacy systems. Applications run in shared environments, saving personnel the headaches involved in constantly installing, running and managing actual networks. The result is massive time, space and weight savings and better communication and security.

May 10, 2016
By Ray Rothrock

Let’s face it—we have a lot to learn about cybersecurity. For weeks, the FBI and Apple squared off in an epic and public battle over encryption—the Holy Grail for cybersecurity warriors. “Help us break the iPhone,” said the FBI. “The risk is too great, too many will be harmed,” Apple retorted. But the battle was over before the parties fully engaged. The FBI found someone to hack the iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters and said, “Never mind, problem solved.”

Does this make you feel secure? With attacks launched every day, I don’t think so.

February 12, 2016
By George F. Holland

The information technology infrastructure, processes and solutions that government agencies rely on are becoming less suitable for today’s operational, mission and business challenges, says Federal CIO Tony Scott, the government’s top chief information officer.

February 9, 2016
By Joel Dolisy

Silos are products of the inherent lack of ability for teams to communicate with one another. Not because they don't want to, but because they can't. They don't have the communication skills, the soft skills, the same user experiences, the same motivations, experts report.

December 16, 2015
By Eddie Garcia

Stopping insider threats has become a unifying cybersecurity mission, particularly in the defense and intelligence communities. And for good reason. While in the recent past, mention of the words insider threat conjured up the likeness of Edward Snowden, the reality is much scarier. More often than not, insider threats result from innocent people making simple mistakes rather than the common misconception of malicious employees or whistleblowers.

November 17, 2015
By Katie Helwig
Katie Helwig, manager of small business programs at AFCEA International, looks out at the Eiffel Tower. She and her family lived in Paris before returning to the United States 16 months ago. Photo by Chuck Helwigi.

It has been 16 months since we moved back from Paris. My husband Chuck ended a glorious 28-year Air Force career at NATO’s Science and Technology Organization in France. We still have many friends and acquaintances who live in the city. The last few days have been filled with fear and dread until, one by one, each confirmed his or her safety.

Being on this side of the pond, worrying about those I care about, is what my family and friends must have gone through 14 years, 2 months ago.

November 13, 2015
By David E. Meadows

The adage is true: What’s old is new again, and while we think the technology of today might cure the ills of yesterday, some problems persist. It might be time to explore how methods that helped isolate insider threats from history can succeed in protecting modern infrastructure.

November 4, 2015
By Justin Marston

You’re trying to break the German Enigma machine. … It’s the greatest encryption device in history, and the Germans use it for all major communications. If the Allies broke Enigma—well, this would turn into a very short war indeed. … One hundred and fifty nine million million million possible Enigma settings. All we had to do was try each one. —Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (Weinstein Company, 2014)

June 11, 2015
By David E. Meadows

Exciting, and sometimes terrifying, technological advances are appearing almost daily. Some of these include artificial intelligence, robotics and quantum computing. The Information Age as we know it always has surged forward along a line of constant change and flux. But these technological advances have been within the physics in which we live.

Well, that is about to change. We are embarking on a new era in the Information Age, and few know what the impact will be. You could call it the Quantum Age. We live our daily lives within physics governed by light, gravity and the four dimensions.

April 11, 2012
By Roger Foster, SIGNAL Scape Guest Blogger

"Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink."

-Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge

December 21, 2011
By Dan Barber

From securing the cloud to unwrapping new architecture compliance requirements, 2011 was a busy year for the tech public sector. In the New Year's spirit of renewal and rededication, here are five resolutions federal agencies should make. 1. Leverage IT to meet budget requirements The government fiscal landscape changed radically in the last year with budget cuts across the majority of federal agencies. The Obama's Administration fiscal 2012 budget proposal calls for a five-year discretionary spending freeze along with $33 billion in additional cuts. Yet, there is a reason why federal IT spending to commercial contractors is expected to grow five percent annually.

December 2, 2011
By Prenston Gale

Earlier this year, detailed information about the bomb resistance of a new Department of Defense (DoD) building in Virginia was compromised. Reuters broadcast the information worldwide. The news organization did not obtain the document by hacking network systems, but rather accessed the "official use only" document on the Army Corps of Engineers website. This incident is just one example of the thousands of data breaches that occur as a result of internal information leakage rather than an outside attack. In their 2011 Information Security Report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) shed light on why internal leaks are so prevalent.