Quick Study


Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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In the future, everyone may be a cybersecurity professional

The Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency has published its findings on the “Human Capital Crisis in Cybersecurity” and, as earlier reports suggested, it could be the spark for a wholesale change in the way the entire government IT work force is trained and certified.

Long term, if the commission’s recommendations are accepted, the professional bona fides of those who work in software development and network operations, as well as in traditional security areas such as intrusion detection and forensics, would be decided by an independent Board of Information Security Examiners. These areas are also critical to cybersecurity, the commission believes.

The commission identified a total of nine key roles in cybersecurity many of which, as with the above, don’t usually fall under the cybersecurity umbrella, including such things as systems administrator and even technical writer. “At least for the moment,” the commission said, it’s not including “executive and leadership roles or specialized functions unique to national security, intelligence or law enforcement.”

If you read through the commission’s report, however, it wouldn’t be surprising to eventually find just about any job that touches on IT, and therefore cybersecurity, included in this list.

The push for certification of cybersecurity professionals, and along with it the definition of just who fits that bill, will be controversial, given that there are many people already involved in cybersecurity that don’t have any formal qualifications. The commission tackles that by comparing the current state of cybersecurity to the practice of medicine in the 19th Century. Likewise, it said, the cybersecurity field has “lots of often self-taught practitioners only some of whom know what they are doing.”

It goes on to say:

“What has evolved in medicine over the last century is a system that recognizes that different kinds of skills and specialties are required. And, since most of us are not able to access the qualifications of a practitioner when a need arises, we now have an education system with accreditation standards and professional certifications by specialty. We can afford no less in the world of cyber.”

Those will be fighting words to some, and there’s a widespread dislike of the idea that the government could take a lead on deciding who is and who is not a cyber professional. But given the urgency that’s building around cybersecurity and the lack of people to fill essential roles, the commission’s recommendations will likely get a sympathetic hearing.

Posted on Jul 26, 2010 at 7:27 PM7 comments


Twitter adoption different for Dems and GOP, but old media still rules

You know something has reached a certain maturity (or at least notoriety) when sober academics conduct research on it, and it seems that Twitter has reached that point. But you may be surprised by the results.

Researchers at the University of Toronto took a look at how those Twittering fiends in the House of Representatives use the microblogging service, and concluded that it’s different depending on whether a Democrat or a Republican is at the computer keys. Democrats have transparency motives, whereas Republicans use Twitter for outreach.

Apparently the number of bills in play at any one time influenced the adoption of Twitter, especially by Republicans. The perceived benefit of using Twitter for outreach is directly related to its potential for influencing political rivals who are also on Twitter, the researchers found.

They say that “the rate of adoption is higher if a representative has sponsored a large number of bills and belongs to committees with a large proportion of Democratic Twitter adopters. The benefit associated with outreach is substantial if Twitter can be used to garner public support for certain policies, which in turn generates support from political rivals.”

No mention was made in the research about the potential influence of the current election cycle on each party’s use. One curious finding, however, was that those members who belong to a large number of committees are less likely to adopt Twitter, as are committee chairmen.

They also mention that much of the initial Twitter adoption occurred around January 2009, when new staffers started work for representatives. That could bias things, the researchers suggest, since staffers likely assist in both the initiation of bills as well as activity on Twitter. Unsaid is the influence these mainly young, and presumably more tech-savvy, staffers had on their bosses’ adoption of Twitter.

However, don’t go too wild about the influence of Twitter and all things social media, at least not just yet. A study by the American Customer Satisfaction Index says that many consumer don’t find soclal media all that satisfying. In fact Facebook, which is far more widely used than Twitter, scored lower in user satisfaction than even IRS e-filers.

What do users find the most satisfying online experience? Cable news sites such as Fox News, MSNBC.com and CNN.com, as well as those of major news outlets such as the New York Times and USA Today. That doesn’t mean to say that eyeballs are veering away from social media, though, and since politicos always go to where the numbers are, Twitter and its social brethren are probably safe.

 

Posted on Jul 21, 2010 at 7:27 PM0 comments


NASA cloud goes open source, but where are feds heading?

NASA has been one of the leading cloud computing lights in the federal government with its homegrown Nebula technology; now it’s making a play for the same reputation in open source cloud circles through an association with a new industry initiative called OpenStack.

Rackspace, which claims a four-year tenure as a cloud hosting company, is the main industry player, but others include Citrix and Dell. OpenStack founders hope more companies will join, including some of the current big players in the market.

The idea, apparently, is to use OpenStack to drive both public and private cloud computing in the same way that other open source endeavors such as Linux, Apache and mySQL have influenced their segments of the IT business. Arguably, computing and applications development would not be as far along as it is without those keeping proprietary elements -- e.g. Microsoft and Windows -- on their toes.

Nebula will be the cornerstone for one of OpenStack’s first projects, which is to provide code for provisioning and managing large-scale deployments of compute instances. Anyone will be able to download that code and start developing their own cloud deployments.

It will be interesting to see just how this influences the development of the cloud industry. Recent polls seem to confirm what’s been the recent trend of IT executives looking to private clouds as their major interest. That certainly seems to be the direction in which government agencies are going, given concerns over security in public clouds.

However, whether or not private clouds are actually clouds or just the traditional data centers with hosted applications jazzed up with a different name is something open to debate. According to the naysayers, real (meaning public) clouds offer far more return than the private version.

NASA has been one of the few federal agencies to embrace the notion of the public cloud, albeit in the hybrid version with hooks from its private NASA Nebula cloud to public clouds such as those offered by Amazon. Now it’s thrown its hat, or at least its technology, into the open source arena, it will be interesting to see what that will mean for government cloud development overall.

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 7:27 PM0 comments


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