By GCN Staff

FBI cyber crime experts at work

DHS mulls changes to CyberFETCH registration

CyberFETCH, or the Cyber Forensics Electronic Technology Clearinghouse, is a Web-based repository of digital forensic tools, technology, and information managed by the Homeland Security Department’s Science & Technology Directorate. It is an unclassified program that does not contain sensitive data, and it went live in May 2012.

The free, collaborative platform is available to forensic practitioners from the public sector, private industry and academia who are citizens of the United States and associated with a U.S-based government, industry or academic institution. Subject matter experts can post blogs sharing their lessons learned and retrieve news and scholarship on cyber forensics. The portal also provides glossaries, listings of upcoming training and events. Members can categorize the material they contribute and network with peers. It includes a wiki, chat, document sharing and other features.

But the forensic information collected and shared on the CyberFETCH website is private and can only be accessed by users who have authenticated themselves. They must fill out a registration form that DHS uses to verify their identity and the validity of their request. DHS is now seeking comments on the information requested in those forms.

While discussions on CyberFETCH began earlier, the system didn’t begin ramping up until 2011. There are now plans to build a public site for agencies and users that would like their information available to the general public.

DHS is accepting comments on revising information collected from users until Oct. 1, 2013, and is particularly interested in comments that 1) evaluate the necessity of the information collected; 2) evaluate the accuracy of the burden of collecting the information; 3) suggest ways to improve the quality, utility, and clarity of the information collected; and 4) minimize the burden of collecting it.

Posted on Aug 16, 2013 at 10:14 AM0 comments

New York statehouse in Albany

New York State moving 120,000 employees to Microsoft Office 365

New York State is moving all of its executive agencies to Microsoft Office 365, consolidating 27 different email, word and data processing systems into a common cloud-based platform, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced. 

By moving 120,000 employees to a common platform for email, office productivity applications and calendaring, the state expects  to save approximately $3 million annually in license fees, hardware, maintenance, energy and personnel costs, Cuomo said in a release.

The agreement, the first of its kind in New York, is the result of the governor’s strategic sourcing and IT transformation projects. In April 2011, Cuomo appointed the Sage Commission, a 20-member team comprising public- and private-sector representatives, to perform a comprehensive review of New York State government and identify structural and operational changes that would help make it more modern, accountable and efficient. Consolidating the state’s email systems was one of the commission’s recommendations. The state currently manages a consolidated Microsoft Exchange email system used by 26 agencies, but more than 50 other agencies manage their own stand-alone email systems.

“This system of multiple email platforms is a barrier to statewide collaboration, results in higher operating costs and presents upgrade challenges, as many systems lag behind more modern services,” said Brian Digman, the state’s CIO.

Moreover, maintaining email systems is not a core business of a state agency and is an unnecessary expense for individual agencies. Resources such as people, money, technology and time are better spent on providing key services, Digman said. 

Over the remainder of the year, 120,000 state executive email boxes will be progressively moved to the Office 365 system, officials said. The move is expected to be completed by the end of 2013. Once the consolidation is complete, Office 365 will provide the following benefits to state agencies:

  • Standardized email, document creation, calendaring, contacts and the ability to share files more efficiently across state executive agencies.  
  • Secure access to email and files anywhere, anytime, from multiple devices including laptops, smartphones and tablets.   
  • A universal address book for all executive agency state employees and some commissions, task forces and the state Education Department.
  • The most current versions of Office programs available on multiple platforms.
  • Automatic updates of all programs, without additional costs for new licenses.
  • Uniform archiving and increased storage.
  • Standardized antivirus, anti-spam and encryption security tools.
  • Full system redundancy and backup.

Other municipalities and government organizations are looking to save money and operate more efficiently by moving email and office productivity applications to Microsoft Office 365 or other cloud-based services such as Google Apps. San Jose, Calif., will be using Microsoft Office 365, Windows Azure and StorSimple for more than 5,000 city employees, Microsoft reported.

Microsoft’s cloud services also are being deployed by San Francisco; Chicago;  Kansas City, Mo.;  Seattle; Santa Clara County, Calif.; California; Texas; and Washington state as well as the Veterans Affairs Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Posted on Aug 16, 2013 at 11:24 AM1 comments

patient phone

With deadlines nearing, states, hospitals rush to build-out health IT networks

The Obama administration’s health reform program faces some significant high tech milestones this fall, including those designed to promote interaction between healthcare providers and patients through the use of mobile technology.

In October, states will be required to launch health insurance exchanges, online markets where the public can shop and compare health insurance plans.

This fall is also when the second stage of the administration’s “meaningful use” plan kicks in. The plan provides financial incentives to hospitals and doctors providers who can show levels of “patient engagement” via the use of health IT.

In both cases, the organizations are demonstrating progress if not perfection in setting up the foundation for a national healthcare information system.

To help promote meaningful use, for example, the Department of Health and Human Services has launched a series of 31 mobile apps that let Medicare and Medicaid patients interact with providers or access HHS-sanctioned information about their healthcare.

The apps include tools for finding the nearest federally funded health center, body-mass index calculators and information for physicians on identifying preventive services appropriate for their patients.

For its part, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have developed apps that offer physicians up-to-date information on influenza activity and the latest diagnostic and treatment information. A separate app lets the public track “influenza-like illness” levels across the country and where they live.

According to a report in MobiHealthNews, the technologies help support the meaningful-use requirement that half of a provider’s patients have the ability to view their health records online. Kaiser Permanente, for one, told the MobiHealthNews that in 2012 already 4 million of its members viewed their health records through an online portal, with 22 percent of the traffic coming from mobile devices.

But while mobile access to healthcare providers seems to be blossoming, most consumers may have to wait until next year before using smartphones to fully tap into new state insurance exchanges.

In the rush to meet the October deadline to get the exchanges up and running, states have not generally had time to make them fully mobile-friendly. While shoppers may be able to use their mobile phones to view the portal and read some material, some features, such as detailed plan comparisons, may not be ready for smartphones.

Washington Health Benefit Exchange CIO Curtis Kwak told Government Technology that with an Oct. 1 deadline looming, the state did not have the chance to build mobile friendliness into the first version of the exchange. Instead, it’s teed up for version 2, planned for August 2014.

Still, those using larger mobile screens may be able to navigate the site or receive text reminders of their coverage status, Government Technology reported. “You always have this problem that you want to have the same content be presentable using different presentation media,” Manu Tandon, secretariat CIO at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services told Government Technology. “This is no different.”

Posted on Aug 15, 2013 at 10:14 AM0 comments


Blacksburg, Virginia Tech jump on Obama's high-speed Internet initiative

Blacksburg, Va., and Virginia Tech University have have become members of US Ignite, an Obama administration initiative launched last June to develop new ways to put high-speed broadband to use.  

“Virginia Tech and Blacksburg have joined US Ignite as a way of … supporting the concept that there is a need to develop new ways to leverage gigabit connectivity,” said Brenda van Gelder, a technology director for Blacksburg Electronic Village, a joint initiative of the town and university that was one of the first community broadband efforts.

Currently Virginia Tech and Blacksburg are supporting technology entrepreneurs such as TechPad, which is working on new applications to be used with high-speed broadband.

Plans are under way to enhance the broadband infrastructure in the downtown area to enable greater participation in high-speed network connectivity for citizens and businesses.

The US Ignite Partnership, formed last year, is a member-funded nonprofit organization of more than 100 companies, government organizations and universities intended to facilitate development of innovative technologies that will use next-generation, high-speed, high-capacity networks. US Ignite is funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

TechPad CEO and founder Bob Summers, of Blacksburg, has received funding for his advanced fitness app, KinectHealth, from the Mozilla Ignite Challenge, part of the US Ignite initiative. KinectHealth3D is a fitness Xbox game that enables anytime, anywhere fitness with peer groups.

Other government agencies around the country are developing applications to take advantage of high-speed Internet. In July, Kansas City, the site of Google’s first gigabit-speed fiber broadband network, announced that Kansas City Public Library is developing a high-speed Software Lending Library that will allow users to “check out” applications hosted by the library. The project is being done with the help of the Mozilla Ignite Challenge, part of the US Ignite initiative. The library hopes to offer high end (and often expensive and bandwidth-hogging) productivity software such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premier for free.

Blacksburg technology entrepreneurs interested in getting involved with the initiative can email van Gelder at bneidigh@vt.edu

Posted on Aug 15, 2013 at 9:22 AM0 comments


Data.gov pilots an easier way to manage agency APIs

Data.gov is offering a new API management service intended to make it easier for agencies to release their application programming interfaces to developers.

The service, api.data.gov, is in the pilot stage — but at a point where the Data.gov team is looking for agencies to use the service and provide feedback, according to an announcement via Google Groups from Nick Muerdter of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

As part of the administration’s Open Government Initiative, agencies have been making data sets available on Data.gov and in many cases providing APIs, which help developers make use of the data by defining how software components should fit together. Data.gov keeps a catalog of APIs, listed by agency.

The new management service aims to help developers use APIs from across agencies boundaries, Muerdter wrote, by handling such things as API keys, usage analytics and documentation. It functions as a transparent layer atop existing APIs and, according to the api.data.gov site “helps deal with some of the repetitive parts of managing APIs.”

Agencies using the service retain full control of their APIs — and can put all of their APIs into the service or start out by trying just one — while the service will “handle the boring stuff,” according to the service’s website.

Among its features are:

API keys: Users who sign up for a key can then use that key for all participating APIs. And because they’re being managed by api.data.gov, agencies can assume that all hits are from valid users.

Analytics: The service takes care of tracking usage, offering graphs on usage trends and the ability to drill down into statistics and metrics on API performance.

Documentation: The service can host API documentation or, if an agency has its own developer portal, provide a link to it.

Rate limiting: Participants can set high or low rate limits for individual users and avoid server overloads that might be caused by users exceeding their limits.

Anyone looking to take part in the pilot can contact the team from the api.data.gov page.

Posted on Aug 02, 2013 at 7:00 AM0 comments