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Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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DOE pitches $10M for energy cybersecurity

The Energy Department has finally announced details of the grant it will award for setting up a National Electric Sector Cyber Security Organization, which will be the major authority charged with protecting the electricity grid.

The good news is that it’s worth around $10 million. The bad news is that potential applicants have less than a month -- until April 30 -- to pull their applications together.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory  is managing the process for DOE.

The department first made the announcement about the new organization at the beginning of this year. The idea is to have it develop and establish safeguards for emerging technologies such as the smart grid, which will use IT to tie intelligent meters and other devices together to give a better way of managing power demand and supply.

The DOE said it’s on an aggressive schedule “to meet the Nation's need for a reliable, efficient and resilient electric power grid.” However, given that it’s now four years after the department published its Roadmap to Secure Control Systems in the Energy Sector, you have to wonder what it means by aggressive.

Nevertheless, at least we now have a concrete next step in place.

Posted on Apr 02, 2010 at 7:27 PM0 comments


Feds prepare RAMP for cloud

As we all know, the federal government is headed for the cloud, though some parts of it seem to be getting there more slowly than others. Now the Cloud Computing Advisory Council, an offshoot of Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra’s ambitions for government IT, wants to speed things up.

A new program named FedRAMP, which could be up and running in a few months, will try to move things along by providing a single entity through which the government could authorize cloud services for use by agencies.

In an interview with GovInfoSecurity.com, the vice chair of the council, NIST’s Peter Mell, said the details of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program has been sent to agencies for their blessing, and the program will go into pilot as soon as that is given.

Security is probably the biggest sticking point when it comes to the feds’ use of the cloud, at least the public cloud. Currently, it’s up to each agency to make sure that the cloud it uses is secure enough to store its data and move it around in the cloud.

FedRAMP, which follows NIST’s most recent guidance on government security, would apparently create the first agreed governmentwide security requirements for cloud services, among other things.

I don’t think I’m the only one who's wondering how enthusiastic individual agencies are about moving to the cloud, given all the other IT stuff they have to contend with. But the above is just one more indication of the administration’s seriousness, at least, along with earlier indications of how fed IT budgets will flow to the cloud.

Posted on Mar 30, 2010 at 7:27 PM2 comments


The Army's smart turn to battlefield apps

Smart phone technology is taking over the rest of the world it seems, so why should the U.S. military be immune? The Army, at least, seems to be willing to see how far it can go, even on the front lines.

Ars Technica reported on a recent visit that the Army’s top propeller heads made to Apple to check out how the technology behind the company’s hugely popular mobile products could be used in tactical situations, apparently part of a larger push by the Army in that direction.

Makes a lot of sense, from various angles. Major General Nick Justice, who leads the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command, said the service is moving away from “big-green-box solutions” and is looking to leverage the kind of billion dollar investments that Apple and other companies have put into this kind of mobile tech.

Suffice to say, the Army’s brass have probably also been made aware of the fact that many of its young soldiers already make use of things like iPods out in the field, at least in terms of the apps that can be developed for particular situations.

That’s also a ready-made app development force, given the fact that many of those soldiers were already probably developing and coding for the iPhone and other devices before they enlisted. Or, at least, they have a natural app-titude (get it?) for doing that.

The Army is trying to tap that talent through a recently announced “Apps for the Army” competition aimed at creating smart phone and Web applications that will “enhance warfighting effectiveness”.

This is a step beyond current mobile research and development efforts. The Army already has it’s Go Mobile program that allows its soldiers to use smart phones to access Army Knowledge Online, through which they can e-mail, conference with other soldiers, download information they need, and more.

This is all a way for the Army to deploy leading edge technology without having to go to the expense of building it all itself. They also get to tap into that knowledgeable and enthusiastic development force. Plus, they get all of that out there and into the hands of its soldiers much, much faster.

The Army finally goes mobile! 

Posted on Mar 29, 2010 at 7:27 PM1 comments


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