Emerging Tech


Feds Get a How-To Guide for Responding to Social Media Hacks

By Frank Konkel // January 27, 2015


Remember two weeks ago when the Twitter and YouTube accounts of U.S. Central Command were compromised in a very public, embarrassing fashion that had some question the need for certain agencies' social media use? 

The news sparked a rapid response from the SocialGov Community – hundreds of digital engagement managers across government – which created a working group to compile best practices and guidance in social media for federal agencies.

Launched today, the Social Media Cyber-Vandalism Toolkit is the result of the working group’s collaboration, and “the new resource is now available as a ‘living document’ for continuous enhancement and expansion to match evolving technologies.”

“We hope experts both within and outside government will continue to improve and expand upon with more training and resources as they develop,” Justin Herman, one of the working group’s members, wrote in a blog post announcing the launch. Herman noted reps from all major social media platforms were invited to participate as well.   

If you’re a fed whose job in any way involves dealing with your department’s social media accounts, the toolkit is worth a look. It provides an exhaustive look at the three phases of handling social media security issues ...

For Feds, Choosing Cloud Services is a Lot Like Dating

By Frank Konkel // January 22, 2015

Oleg Grafkoff/Shutterstock.com

She’s the cloud, and she’s the cool, new thing in town. You’re a fed in a dead-end relationship with your drab legacy hardware.

And because you’re breaking up with your legacy hardware soon anyway, you’re thinking it won’t hurt to test the waters with the cloud and see how things go. After all, you think she’s maybe cheaper than your last squeeze, and you’re hoping she’ll help you be more efficient and prepared for the future.

But slow down, Casanova.

Before you lock down the cloud, there are some things you ought to know about her -- and listening to friends and colleagues who’ve had flings with her in the past is a wise move.

This Meritalk report published Jan. 20, featuring cloud opinions of 150 federal IT leaders, is a great place to start.

Know What You Want

There is not a one-size fits all approach to cloud computing for any federal agency.

According to the report, IT experts want security, implementation support, reliability, ease of integration and FedRAMP certification from their cloud solutions – in that order.

Security is the most sought-after trait for federal IT experts, but only by ...

Obama’s Best SOTU Quip Rips ‘I’m Not a Scientist’ Line

By Frank Konkel // January 21, 2015

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address.
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address. // Mandel Ngan/AP

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama managed to spawn a thousand memes, a slew of drinking games – I may or may not still be reeling from playing – and one ad-libbed rebuke of Republicans that blew up social media and could ultimately be what his 2015 address is remembered for.

Obama’s best line, though, came in addressing climate change, to which he said no issue “poses a greater threat to future generations.”

His remarks came just days after data compiled by two scientific federal agencies – NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – dubbed 2014 the hottest year on record.

Indeed, Obama noted that 14 of the hottest 15 years on record have come since 2000.

That the world is getting warmer is not up for debate: Leading international organizations, the Defense Department and even Pope Francis all fret about a warmer future that could significantly raise sea levels, cause global food shortages and lead to more chaotic, powerful weather systems.

Yet, a growing list of leading Republicans continue to deny that humans are behind climate change and oppose policies to deal with it, trumpeting their ignorance of science as a defense. As in, “I’m ...

Customs Agency Has to Keep Records for 75 Years. That’s a Lot of Tape Drives.

By Frank Konkel // January 20, 2015

Ivaschenko Roman/Shutterstock.com

In the government, emerging technologies often find themselves on a collision course with existing -- sometimes woefully outdated -- federal policies and legal frameworks.

One of the most glaring examples of this has emerged in the current net neutrality debate: Rules created when rotary phones were people’s primary means of communication still govern today’s Internet.

The only person I know who even uses a rotary phone anymore is my grandfather, a retired dairy farmer who shunned technology to the degree that he disliked new-age tractors with onboard computers. He does have a cell phone for emergencies, by the way.

Stated simply, yesterday’s policies are often detrimental to today’s technologies, and while many of the government’s top tech officials regularly bemoan this fact, their hands are often tied.

Wolf Tombe, chief technology officer at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, recently shared an interesting tidbit about records management at CBP.

Speaking Jan. 15 at the Federal Cloud Computing Summit in Washington, D.C., Tombe said his agency is mandated to store certain records collected by its border-enforcement system, known as TECS, “for up to 75 years.”

That sounds crazy, but it’s totally true.

Subject records and CBP ...

What Do DISA’s New Cloud Security Requirements Mean for Classified Information?

By Frank Konkel // January 16, 2015

Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock.com

The Defense Information Systems Agency released updated cloud security requirements this week, consolidating six previous “impact levels” of information sensitivity into four in an effort to simplify the process for cloud providers and the Defense Department alike.

That follows recent moves by DISA to speed up the pace at which DOD customers can explore opportunities in the cloud. A rewritten cloud strategy released last month by DOD Acting Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen eliminated DISA’s previous role as a cloud service broker, while retaining its role in ensuring information security in the cloud.

In addition to creating security requirements, DISA will still play an active role in the development of cloud access points – the physical connections where information will be exchanged between DOD networks and the cloud.

The gist of the impact-level consolidation is that nonsensitive unclassified information – the kind available under the Freedom of Information Act, or data hosted on websites – can be stored in commercial clouds that meet baseline standards set by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, or FedRAMP.

More sensitive information at what used to be impact levels 3 and 4 – now consolidated into a single level – can exist on- or off-premises “in any ...