Sunlight's Williams to GSA, Shellshock to a computer near you and data center savings

News and notes from around the federal IT community.

Rebecca Williams_GSA

Rebecca Williams is leaving the Sunlight Foundation to work with GSA on making government data more accessible.

GSA taps Sunlight's Rebecca Williams for help with open data

The General Services Administration has hired open-data advocate Rebecca Williams from the Sunlight Foundation to help it make the tens of thousands of government datasets on its site more accessible.

In a Sept. 23 blog post on GSA's website, David Wycinsky Jr., communications manager in GSA's Office of Communications and Marketing, said the agency has tapped Williams for her experience in working across state and local government and her most recent stint at "a leading nonprofit open-government advocacy organization.", launched in 2009 by then-federal CIO Vivek Kundra, contains almost 98,000 datasets from federal, state and local agencies, along with tools and resources to conduct research, build apps and design data visualizations.

Williams said she plans to create more public/private partnerships for and help implement a better public feedback strategy. She also wants to identify strategies to help agencies comply with open-data policies and better showcase open-data success stories.

Meet Shellshock, the new Heartbleed -- or worse

The Department of Homeland Security's watchdog for computer vulnerabilities has warned of a new bug that affects Unix-based operating systems such as Linux and Mac OS X.

The Shellshock vulnerability in widely used command software Bash allows a "remote attacker to execute arbitrary code on an affected system," DHS' U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team said Sept. 24.

"The breadth of at-risk machines [will be] significantly higher" than those affected by the Heartbleed OpenSSL vulnerability that emerged in April, said Troy Hunt, a software architect and security expert.

GAO: Better reporting can spotlight data center consolidation savings

With improved guidance from top officials, federal agencies will be able to achieve higher savings and cost avoidance targets from data center consolidation efforts, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The government projects a total of $5.35 billion in savings from the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, from its beginning in 2011 through fiscal year 2017. However, according to the GAO, reports of savings and cost avoidance is hampered by difficulties in calculating true savings from lower power consumption, lower facility costs, hardware savings, and other factors.

GAO recommends that the Office of Management and Budget develop a metric for measuring server utilization, in order to capture the savings from moving from utilization rates in the single digits to the OMB target of 60 to 70 percent.

Agencies concurred with GAO's recommendations, although in reply comments the Department of Labor noted that certain factors militated against projecting accurate savings figures. "There is a facilities and procurement driven lag between the time the data center is closed and cost reductions can be realized," the department noted.