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Nextgov Event: Enjoy a Cocktail and Talk Emerging Tech

By Frank Konkel // June 27, 2016

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com

Emerging technology, agriculture, the intelligence community -- and cocktails.

Nextgov’s fifth Tech & Tequila meetup takes place tomorrow at Impact Hub DC, and if you’re a fan of any of the above topics, you might want to sign up.

Nextgov will host its latest meetup on emerging technology, and tomorrow's short panels will focus on emerging technologies in play within the 17 agencies of the IC and on how nanotech and genetic research are affecting agriculture around the country.

We’ve previously covered cybersecurity, data, the internet of things and open source policies – now, it’s time to tackle emerging technology. Come get your buzz on with Nextgov and get ready to learn something.

Our panelists include:

  • Hongda Chen, national program leader for bioprocess engineering and nanotechnology, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agriculture Department  
  • Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA
  • Graham Plaster, president and CEO, TheIntelligenceCommunity.com

Register here and follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #NGMeetUp

Box Rolls Out FedRAMP-Approved Government Offering

By Frank Konkel // May 6, 2016

kochopuszek/Shutterstock.com

West Coast-based tech company Box is set to expand its federal customer base thanks to a new offering, Box for Government, which received the government’s cloud computing seal of approval this week.

The new offering is Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program-accredited through a provisional authority to operate from the Defense Information Systems Agency.

With that authority, Box for Government can now serve civilian agencies at the FedRAMP-moderate level, as well as Defense Department customers with data designated as Impact Level 2 by DISA, which includes some public-facing data and private unclassified information.

The company is also working to meet the FedRAMP-high baseline and DISA’s Impact Level 4 data, according to a Box spokeswoman. That would allow Box to work with some of the most sensitive unclassified data the government hosts.

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"Box for Government will make it easier than ever for government organizations to deploy Box at scale, become more agile, and drive their digital transformation strategies forward,” said Aaron Levie, Box co-founder and CEO.

The process to get accredited was a lengthy one that began over a year ago and...

Because of Technology, Future Presidents Might Have to be Groomed from Birth

By Frank Konkel // April 25, 2016

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz // Keith Srakocic/AP

Tomorrow’s presidential candidates may be groomed from childbirth to avoid gaffes and missteps that increasingly-connected technologies could record and archive forever.

In a talk at the QTS Information Security and Compliance Forum in Washington, D.C., last week, hacker-turned-security consultant Jeff Moss described a dystopian future where cheap data storage and a growing litany of Internet-connected devices – called the Internet of Things – converge to create permanent data trails for nearly every human being.

“When I was younger, it was really expensive to store stuff,” said Moss, now 41. “But now, storage is free so therefore everything is recorded forever. I’m curious on a societal level, what does that do if you’re running for president one day and they have everything forever?”

He speculated that future presidential candidates would have to be “managed from the moment you were born, so there is no data trail.”

Moss said precursors for this “doom and gloom” scenario already exist in today’s age of Web-connected toasters. Nearly 328 million new devices connect to the Internet every month and more than 50 billion may be connected by the decade’s end.

Social media applications like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have already ruined...

Pentagon: ‘Innovation is a National Security Imperative’

By Frank Konkel // March 25, 2016

Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock.com

It only takes one word to explain why the Defense Department is so keen on Silicon Valley: innovation.

“Innovation is truly a national security imperative,” Claire Grady, DOD's director of defense procurement and acquisition policy, said this week at the ACT-IAC Acquisition Excellence event in Washington.

DOD will account for some $274 billion in spending this year, Grady said, with $154 billion toward services – some of which she said were duplicative and likely could have had better outcomes.

Despite the largest budget of any government agency, DOD still struggles to modernize its aging technology infrastructure while simultaneously prepping for a new era of connectivity often called the Internet of Things.

Prior to Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s first visit to Silicon Valley in 2015, a Pentagon chief hadn’t stopped by the valley for 20 years. If the quest for innovation could hold the keys to DOD’s most important technological riddles, its top officials have now made three visits to the West Coast tech hub and set up shop.

“We at DOD tend to keep things longer than anybody would,” Grady said. “How do we keep them current to meet emerging threats? We really need to take advantage...

A Search for the Government’s Oldest Computer

By Frank Konkel // March 24, 2016

Tinxi/Shutterstock.com

Last month, the open records experts at MuckRock began looking for the most ancient computer still in use by the federal government.

The quest is perhaps the federal IT equivalent of locating the One Ring, except its holders, including developer Allan Lasser, don’t want to heave the old machines into Mount Doom when they find them. Rather, their intentions are to publicize the how and why behind the government’s most archaic systems, and potential security problems that arise from operating obsolete systems.

“Knowing which agencies are running hardware older than I am is important,” Lasser wrote.

In an update posted yesterday, it appears MuckRock will have no shortage of candidates.

A 30-year-old computer in Grand Rapids that controls a school’s temperature, a 40-year-old machine in Hawaii handling payroll and the computers at NASA built for the Voyager space mission are all in contention.

I plan to participate in this quest and, given that it’s tax season, respectfully submit the Internal Revenue Service as a hotbed for hilariously, hellaciously old systems. Some 3,000 of its computers are still running Windows 2003, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.