Y2K countdown begins in earnest

Y2K countdown begins in earnest

'We're going to be ready,' OMB says

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

As agencies enter the last leg of the year 2000 marathon, federal systems chiefs say they are confident about the readiness of government systems.

'The short word on where we are going to be for Y2K is that we're going to be ready,' said Ed Springer, an Office of Management and Budget policy analyst. 'We know some things are going to go wrong. We're focused on how we mitigate these problems.'

Treasury Department chief information officer James Flyzik agreed. 'We feel very confident going into Y2K, but we're still erring on the side of caution,' he said of his department's efforts.

Treasury, like most agencies, has been testing various year 2000 scenarios and has been adjusting its plans for the rollover period.

Other officials from OMB and the CIO Council are recommending that agencies re-examine their systems using the latest tools. That will help ensure they have done all they can, said Shirley A. Malia, who recently joined the Commerce Department's Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office and who is chairwoman of the CIO Council's Year 2000 Committee.

'The suggestion has been made to the agencies that they step back and look at applications again, knowing that they are compliant but'with the latest tools available'to double-check,' Malia said.

Experts are divided about final actions. Some recommend that agencies continue making changes as long as possible. Most experts, however, recommend that agencies lock down their systems, making few changes to systems until next year.

Check this list twice before Jan. 1

  • Make sure you have installed the most recent patches from hardware and software vendors.
  • Run final tests on systems using the latest year 2000 detection tools.
  • Limit hardware and software changes to those that are critical to maintaining operations.
  • Update antivirus software.
  • Set security settings to the highest levels throughout the rollover period.
  • Become familiar with your intrusion detection system so you won't be overwhelmed and panicked by false alarms.
  • Brief personnel about the need for heightened security precautions during the rollover period.
  • Determine who can make decisions.
  • Update information on how to contact vendors and computer emergency response teams or other security organizations.
  • Review reporting procedures.

Some agencies will take their office systems down on Dec. 31 and bring them back up on Jan. 1 or Jan. 2 to test how they will operate when everyone comes back to work on Monday, Jan. 3, Springer said.

The President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion will set a baseline for what will constitute normal operations on New Year's weekend. It asks that reports to the council's Information Coordination Center during the rollover period identify whether operations are normal or if there are problems.

The normal label will give officials a way to distinguish between year 2000 problems and other typical systems failures, said retired Lt. Gen. Peter A. Kind, director of the year 2000 Information Coordination Center.

Although most of the attention has been focused on the actual date change, officials noted that there could be problems before or after Jan. 1. So far there have been only limited problems. Philadelphia recently sent out a notice to 500 people instructing them to report for jury duty in 1900, for example.

The most complex problems arise when computations are bungled and the errors can remain undetected for some time, said Jim McGovern, president and chief operating officer of CCD Online Systems Inc. of Los Angeles. CCD makes a year 2000 tool that has been used by the Social Security Administration and other federal agencies.


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