Editorial: Security matters

Imagine doing your job without a connection to the Internet. No e-mail. No Google. No, not even a visit to FCW.com. Part of the Interior Department has been experiencing that restriction for years.

This month, in a significant decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit removed U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth from a long-standing class-action lawsuit against Interior. American Indians brought the case over land-use rights and payments, and Lamberth has overseen it for about a decade. But the appeals court decided that the judge had overstepped the court’s bounds.

Because the complex case carries with it more than 100 years of historical baggage, it has generated some passionate reactions. But few would have guessed that it would result in at least one part of a government agency being unplugged from the Internet.

One of the central issues is the security of computer systems at Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. Experts have long complained that getting executives and program managers to appreciate the importance of information security is an uphill battle. However, they should have enough examples from the first half of this year to address any lingering doubts.

In recent months, mishaps have run the gamut from lost laptop PCs to lost data stored on portable media drives, from successful hackers to long-running court cases. The incidents have made the problems associated with failing to have a proper security program abundantly clear.

Experts say the best systems include security from the beginning of their development. Given the recent reminders of the vulnerability of government data, it is clear that agencies still have some work to do.

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About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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