Tech Talk Video

Talking Tech: Securing Your Clearance

Talking Tech: Securing Your Clearance

Security clearance reform is underway. Continuous monitoring and insider threat detection have begun. But these are still new concepts, and the challenges go well beyond technology.

So says Tony Cothron, a former chief of naval intelligence and now a vice president at General Dynamics Information Technology.
“I used to say, without security, there is no intelligence. I think today, from where I’m sitting, without security there is no success in business, there is no success in government, there certainly is no success in national security.”

Government is collecting ever more data on each person with a clearance. The aim is to make everyone more secure. But challenges remain: First, all that data must be secured and protected. And second, it must be analyzed. “On continuous monitoring, we’re not there yet,” Cothron says. “We don’t have the instrumentation of all the networks, of all the organizations, to really be on top of it and stop the abnormal behavior and stop insider threats.”

It will take more work and more cooperation and collaboration to bring convert continuous monitoring from a vision into a real-time tool.

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Talking Tech: Bringing Stakeholders Together

Talking Tech: Bringing Stakeholders Together

Connecting emerging technologies to the government agencies that can put them to work is a critical mission for the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center. The center helps foster communication and exchange between government, industry and academia.

Government, industry and academia come together at the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center (ATARC), an organization dedicated to increasing dialog among and promoting a deeper technical understanding of complex emerging technology issues.

ATARC partners with the Mitre Corporation, a federally funded research and development center, to conduct summits on issues such as cloud computing and mobile technology, leveraging shared interests among government, industry and academic experts to produce policy memos and white papers.

“We establish these informal networks, where if you have a question down the line, you can go ahead and call your partner at another agency,” says Tom Suder, ATARC’s president and founder. “I think that’s the best thing we do: We get people together. We do have outcomes, but we have collaboration, this constant collaboration, and we encourage that … You’re breaking down these silos, because everybody really has the exact same problems.”

Programs like this are more vital now than ever before, Suder says. “Technology has always changed. It’s the pace of change is what I see as really happening a lot faster.”

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Talking Tech: Simplifying Cloud SLAs

Talking Tech: Simplifying Cloud SLAs

Buying cloud is complicated, but comparing cloud offerings from different vendors is even harder. Terms and definitions are inconsistent. Responsibilities and metrics vary.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) aims to change all that. John Messina, a computer scientist and senior member of NIST’s Cloud Computing Program, is part of a team trying to roll out international  standards for cloud computing service level agreements (SLAs). We caught up with him at the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center (ATARC) Cloud Summit in Washington, where he shared his vision with a large government audience.

By bringing together major cloud vendors and buyers to hammer out consistent terms, they hope to speed the process of buying and comparing cloud services. In this GovTechWorks interview, Messina explains the issues and the work that remains ahead.

“Everybody knew it was a problem, but there wasn’t a whole lot of willingness or movement to work on the solution,” Messina says. Cloud providers had written SLAs to protect their own business needs, while customers felt they had little say in defining terms. But eventually, “pushing at the international standards level, it became recognized that there would be benefits to both the consumers and the providers if we actually got a cloud SLA standard completed.”

The four-part standard is in draft from now, with the first part out for review and subsequent pieces to follow over the next year. To learn more, watch the video.

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Talking Tech: Putting the ‘Joint’ in JIE

Talking Tech: Putting the ‘Joint’ in JIE

The Defense Department’s Joint Information Environment requires the military services and defense agencies share not just information, but applications, networks and data centers.

Getting everyone on the same page isn’t just an aspiration, but a necessity, says Air Force Chief Technology Officer Frank Konieczny. “There’s not enough money and budget to actually do this now [alone],” he says.

The drive to cut costs and be more efficient is leading to increased cooperation. “It’s been a joint effort all along,” he says. “ We are a joint effort, doing this together. We may argue a lot about what each individual service wants, but eventually we get to the same unified position: that we need to do this.”

Compromise and discussion are the order of the day, and that’s led to understanding among the services.

“We’re working much better with our components, the other components,” Konieczny says. “There’s shared responsibility of mission that we’re actually coming out with now, as well as shared applications and everything else … You have common goals and common missions and you have to achieve them.”

 

For more from Frank Konieczny on JIE, watch the video.

 

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Talking Tech: Putting the Archives in the Cloud

Talking Tech: Putting the Archives in the Cloud

The National Archives and Records Administration holds everything from the Declaration of Independence to a cabinet secretary’s emails. Today, just 10 percent of its holdings are in the cloud. Getting the remaining records to the cloud is a massive undertaking. Marlon Andrews, NARA’s deputy chief information officer, is helping to drive the program.

“This opportunity to go to the cloud has given NARA a great opportunity to look at their records, to digitize their records, to classify their records, to review and set standards on how we’re going to get information from different agencies, so that we can do a more efficient job and quicker job of making records available to the general public,” Andrews says.

 

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Talking Tech: Using Cloud to Improve Collaboration

Talking Tech: Using Cloud to Improve Collaboration

The State Department is starting to give its thousands of employees around the world access to cloud-based collaboration tools, beginning with the safest of State’s missions: public diplomacy.

Rusty Pickens, senior advisor for Digital Programs, is helping to lead the charge, leveraging commercial software-as-a-service products that are common in commercial practice but brand new to many of his users. Because these are unclassified communications, such as press releases, event listings and fact sheets on American culture and values, security is not a concern.

But finding tools that work as well – or almost as well – in remote locations with slow Internet connections as they do in cities with fiber-optic broadband is a challenge. So is State’s email-centric culture.

“It’s still very email and file based,” says Pickens, who spent six years at the White House before joining State. “And so we’re hoping to help some of that along to the next evolution of centralized cloud repositories where there’s just one copy of this cable.”

Pickens’ goal: increase collaboration but “kill the email threads.”

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