The news in brief

Digital flubs fingerprint matches

Proprietary formats are better than standardized digital formats at matching fingerprint minutiae, according to National Institute of Standards and Technology tests.

The minutiae templates are descriptions rather than images of fingerprints. Matching two prints instead of one can help compensate for the standard template's reduced accuracy, NIST said, but systems using images and two fingers had the highest accuracy rates: 99.8 percent.

New Jersey CTO quits

Charles "Steve" Dawson last week stepped down as chief technology officer for New Jersey.

After taking office in January, Gov. Jon Corzine (D) asked for the resignations of all political appointees. But Dawson's resignation comes during a review of Office of IT spending, launched by the governor following harsh criticism from state lawmakers over the CTO's lack of oversight of $500 million in IT spending, said a report by New Jersey newspaper, The Star-Ledger.

Adel Ebeid, a former IT office deputy, is interim CTO.

FISMA grades low again ?

Federal agencies failed to pull up their Federal Information Security Management Act grades since last year, again earning an overall "D-plus" from the House Government Reform Committee.

After several highly publicized incidents of customers' and citizens' personal data being lost or stolen, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said Congress is considering a national standard for data breach notifications.

Although seven agencies earned "As," nine ? two more than last year ? failed.

? and NIST sets the bar

The National Institute of Standards and Technology released the final standard for securing agency computer systems under the Federal Information Security Management Act.

Federal Information Processing Standard 200 sets minimum federal system requirements in 17 security areas, including access control, training, audits, certification, risk assessment and acquisition. Agencies have until March 2007 to bring systems into compliance.

The two-year-old FIPS 199 set criteria for categorizing IT system security levels.

Pentagon meets EA deadline

The Defense Department met its second congressionally imposed deadline this month when it hand-delivered the latest iteration of its business enterprise architecture and enterprise transition plan to congressional defense committees.

Version 3.1 cleans up six business enterprise priority areas and closes architecture gaps between intragovernmental transactions and in environmental safety and occupational health.

The Defense Department also plans a March release to the services and agencies of a federation strategy outlining how it will certify their business systems compatibility with the department's BEA.

Raytheon team reaches for Border

Raytheon Co. is teaming with BAE Systems Inc., Bechtel National Inc. and IBM Corp. to submit a proposal for the Homeland Security Department's Secure Border Initiative.

Raytheon is among 56 large and 189 small companies that have registered online with DHS, identifying themselves as vendors interested in SBInet, the integrated border-surveillance system contract.

AF looks beyond Netcents

Although it awarded the five-year contract in late 2004, the Air Force already is thinking beyond its $9 billion Network Centric Solutions program because it falls short of meeting the service's enterprisewide needs, according to an Air Force procurement official.

The concern "is that Netcents already has a shelf life, and we're starting to think about how we can replace it," said Matthew Benavides, director of acquisitions and commodities at the Air Force's Operations and Sustainment Systems Group near Montgomery, Ala.

Senate seeks learning system

The Senate wants a vendor to deliver a Web-based commercial learning management product.

In a recent posting, the Senate asked interested vendors if they can meet a set of requirements and produce an online, non-hosted Learning Management System.

Responses are due by March 24.

DIA SOA = interoperability

True interoperability must occur at the data level, not the system level, said Defense Intelligence Agency officials.

To this end, the agency is building a service-oriented architecture with a set of common data standards that will use Web services, Extensible Markup Language, metadata tagging and other tools to ease collaboration.

The move is part of a trend among the intelligence community to move beyond collaborative applications to achieve interoperability across its agencies.

'Computer visa' glitch found

The nation's L-1 "computer visa" program for temporary IT workers from foreign countries is vulnerable to fraud and potential abuse, said a new report from the Homeland Security Department inspector general.

The vulnerability occurs because the concept of specialized knowledge "is so broadly defined that adjudicators believe they have little choice but to approve almost all petitions," the report said. Managerial status is difficult to verify, and foreign companies may be illegitimate, presenting opportunities for fraud and abuse, the report said.

Group backs IP-enabled 911

The nation's 911 emergency call systems urgently need upgrading to handle new technologies, according to a new report from the National Emergency Number Association.

The 911 system, set up 30 years ago, needs an IP-enabled national blueprint to keep up with technology, the report said.

The report urges making the 911 system integrated with not just wired telephones and cell phones, but also computers, telematics devices in cars and personal digitized assistants, among other IP devices.

Justice: Help FBI with Sentinel

The project manager for the FBI's Sentinel case management system needs to hire 24 employees as soon as possible to handle demands of the projected $400 million to $500 million procurement, said the Justice Department inspector general's office.

As of Jan. 30, the Sentinel project manager's office had filled only 51 of 76 positions needed for full staffing.

High turnover and short staffing contributed to poor management and the agency's cancellation of the $170 million Trilogy case management system.

'Cloaking' latest Web threat

Terrorist organizations and other national enemies have launched bogus Web sites that mask their covert information or give misleading information to users they identify as federal employees or agents, said Lance Cottrell, founder and chief scientist at Anonymizer Inc.

Among the risks of the terrorist cloaking practice: Organizations can provide bogus passwords to covert meetings to pinpoint federal intelligence agents who attend, making them vulnerable to kidnapping or becoming the unwitting carriers of false information, Cottrell said.

Feds extend RFID tests

The Homeland Security Department expects to begin a second phase of tests this summer issuing travel documents containing radio frequency identification technology to foreign visitors at three selected land entry ports into the United States.

The documents, which contain RFID chips, are scanned wirelessly from up to about 35 feet away when foreign visitors entering and exiting the ports in their vehicles display the documents.

Wireless saves the day

Satellite communication vans from emergency response agencies throughout the national capital region converged on vacant Washington property in December to practice collaborating in an anti-terrorism mass casualty exercise.

There was a glitch: The vans could not be positioned to get satellite coverage to let agencies communicate directly with each other.

But no problem. First responders in that drill switched over to D.C.'s Wireless Accelerated Responder Network, a citywide wireless broadband network demonstration project.

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