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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.

The World’s Internet Connectivity is Getting Faster

By Frank Konkel // March 23, 2016

MikeDotta/Shutterstock.com

A new report emphasizes how quickly the rest of the world has caught up – and in many cases, surpassed – broadband speeds in the United States.

Released yesterday, Akamai’s latest "State of the Internet" contains metrics collected from its worldwide customers. Globally, the average connection speed jumped from 5.6 Mbps to 8.6 Mbps, a 23 percent increase from 2014.

Investment in digital infrastructure remains a major trend. South Korea, for example, has the world’s highest average Internet connection speed, with its citizens surfing the Web at 26.7 megabytes per second -- 20 percent faster than in 2014. 

Compared to such speeds, the U.S. fares poorly. Just 10 states had 14 percent or more unique IP addresses connect to Akamai at average speeds of at least 25 Mbps. The District of Columbia held the top spot – 25 percent of its connections reached the 25 Mbps threshold.

Cloud Giant Amazon Web Services Turns 10

By Frank Konkel // March 14, 2016

Gil C/Shutterstock.com

Amazon Web Services launched its first true cloud computing product, Simple Storage Services, 10 years ago today, turning the computing world on its head.

To the company’s early customers, “the cloud” was essentially a way to rent out storage on its data centers, hoping to find business from startups and established companies that found building out scalable data centers cost prohibitive.

Over the last decade, AWS has come to dominate the infrastructure-as-a-service market, providing the computing horsepower for Netflix, Comcast, Yelp and more than 1 million other customers. More recently, AWS turned into a major player in the government’s move to cloud computing when it became the first major cloud provider to comply with requirements the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program.

AWS’ list of customers now includes 2,000 federal agencies at all levels of government, according to an AWS spokeswoman, including some of the most information-sensitive organizations on the planet.

The Central Intelligence Agency chose AWS to build a public cloud behind the intelligence community's firewall for national security purposes, and continues to add features to it. AWS also became the first cloud provider authorized to handle the Defense Department’s most sensitive unclassified data...