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Education Department Apologizes for Offensive 'I'm Poor' Tweet

By Ross Gianfortune // June 25, 2014

Relativity Media

The Education Department's FAFSA Twitter account Tuesday posted and quickly deleted a tweet that caused quite a backlash from followers who found it tone deaf and offensive to lower-income college students.

In an attempt to connect with teenagers and fans of the Academy Award-nominated 2011 film "Bridesmaids," the @FAFSA account posted a screenshot from the film with Kristen Wiig's dialogue -- a drunk plea of "Help me. I'm poor." -- over the image and text saying, "If this is you, then you better fill out your FAFSA: fafsa.gov."

The tweet immediately caused a torrent of negative reactions from followers.

Hurry! Nominate Your Rock Star Colleagues for the 2014 Bold Awards

By Camille Tuutti // June 17, 2014

Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock.com

Know a rock star or two who have made transformative contributions to government with the help of technology? There is still time to nominate them for Nextgov's 2014 Bold Awards, which honor public-sector change agents, trailblazers and visionaries.

In particular, we are looking for risk takers who have found novel ways to implement programs, initiatives and policies to make government better. Last year’s crop of winners included the hosts of a hackathon to develop software and hardware to address real-world issues; designers of health apps that helped bring the Veterans Affairs Department to the forefront in telehealth; and creators of a process to make and share free geographical data.

By embracing the spirit of innovation, these individuals solved some of government’s most pressing challenges -- while showcasing true dedication to public service.

We want to hear similar stories and shine a spotlight on extraordinary work. Here are the details:

  • The deadline for nominations is June 23.
  • The editorial team will pick a dozen or so finalists, which will be announced in July.
  • Readers will be able to vote for a “people’s choice” winner online from July 28-Aug. 8.
  • The winners will be announced at Nextgov Prime on ...

Cybersecurity: We’ve Deluded Ourselves for Years

By Tom Talleur // June 12, 2014

Image via Tom Talleur

Bruce Schneier’s piece ”Should U.S. Hackers Fix Cybersecurity Holes or Exploit Them” implies the debate over exploiting cyber vulnerabilities rather than fixing them is new and unprecedented. It isn’t. 

It’s been going on in U.S. government circles for decades, especially since creating the National Security Agency in 1952. It's a practice called SIGINT (signals intelligence) equity in NSA parlance. Bruce accurately describes this in his piece. 

We have allowed a preference of offense over defense to affect our cybersecurity by means of neglect and intent. For some, it seems, the Internet just popped up out of nowhere.

Successive administrations in the United States made this debate moot through action. They have consistently taken the position that it's better to know about vulnerabilities and exploit them rather than educate others on how to shore up defenses. Stated differently, our consistent bias has been offense over defense. This notion stems from military and intelligence community influences superimposed, if you will by default, over the commercial Internet.

With the Snowden disclosures, we've lost some SIGINT equity surprise. That's why we're now seeing the indictments of foreign state actors for hacking. Our government could ...

If you’re a Fed Who Knows IT, We Want Your Input

By Frank Konkel // June 2, 2014

My Portfolio/Shutterstock.com

We here at Government Executive Media Group are looking for a few good federal IT executives to join our Federal Tech Insiders Panel.

Once per quarter, we’ll reach out to those who sign up with a survey on the biggest issues in the federal technology community, such as cloud computing, big data, mobile security, cybersecurity and impactful legislation, as well as other influences like how CIOs and CTOs are realizing agency missions.

Better opinions help us craft better research, which we then release back to the federal community through Government Business Council and Nextgov.

Currently, we’re gathering feedback regarding open data –specifically, how agencies have opened up their data to the public and how they plan to adhere to the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act.

You can take the three-minute survey here.

Update: This story has been updated to remove mention of Nextgov's charitable pledge because the pledge goal has already been met.

 

(Image via My Portfolio/Shutterstock.com)

Big Data’s Coming Role in Cybersecurity

By Frank Konkel // June 2, 2014

HerrBullermann/Shutterstock.com

Every day, people, machines and the world’s growing multitude of sensors create more than 2.5 exabytes of data – that’s a 2.5 followed by 18 zeros – a bonanza of bits and bytes that is in many ways a double-edged sword.

On one hand, private sector companies and the government are able to collect more data than ever for analysis – ideally, that’s a great thing. Never in human history has humanity had access to the kinds of data it does now.

Yet big data sets are also attractive to hackers and malicious actors who see more data as more money or intelligence to steal.

The two disciplines – cybersecurity and big data – are beginning to meld so that it’s difficult to talk about one without the other. Agencies across government are learning to better detect and analyze cyber threats, and one of the ways they are doing so involves big data. For example, agencies might sift through huge piles of data as they monitor traffic in and out of a network in real time to detect potentially adversarial anomalies. It takes a lot of technological horsepower to analyze that information, but the insight it provides could be ...