FCW Insider: Oct. 3

Top stories, quick hits and more from FCW's reporters and editors.

What's scarier than legacy IT? Not a lot, if you're the nominee to head the Social Security Administration. Andrew Saul, the Trump administration's pick to lead SSA, told a Senate panel on Oct. 2 that he's "scared to death" of the agency's legacy IT systems and promised to make modernization and cybersecurity top priorities. Chase Gunter has more .

Mismatched data systems are to blame for exacerbating the family separation crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a report from the Department of Homeland Security inspector general. DHS officials embarked on a "zero tolerance" policy that included separating children from parents without data systems in place that could connect separated families through disparate agencies responsible for processing undocumented immigrants and caring for minor children. Adam Mazmanian explains .

When the mainstream press covers procurement, Steve Kelman notes in his most recent blog , they're apt to describe government contracts as "lucrative" almost out of reflex. But "lucrative" compared to what ?

DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen said that 2018 election security will benefit from a variety of tech and governance reforms , including wider deployment of sensors and an established protocol of who to call in the event of a breach or cybersecurity event. But as Derek B. Johnson notes , it's highly unlikely that any proposed legislation on election security, even if enacted into law, will have an impact on the conduct of the midterm elections.

If you get all your news from Twitter, you might think that President Donald Trump is getting ready to slide into your DMs. A planned Oct. 3 test of the presidential-level Wireless Emergency Alert is intended to trigger alerts to all mobile device users who are connected to a U.S. telecommunications provider, but as Mark Rockwell reports , the system does not support POTUS sending out messages on his own.

Quick Hits

*** DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen said that the U.S. doesn't need a new, standalone cybersecurity agency.

"We are the national cybersecurity agency," said Nielsen at an Oct. 2 event hosted by the Washington Post.

A pivot to a standalone agency could upend much of the foundation and consensus that DHS has built in the cybersecurity policy arena, she said.

Former CIA director and Army Gen. David Petraeus called on the federal government to consider a standalone agency dedicated to cyber matters in a piece for Politico last month, arguing that DHS has far too large of a policy portfolio to focus on cybersecurity.

The idea strikes some as pie in the sky, but U.S. allies like the U.K. and Canada have moved to establish their own centralized cyber agencies, and global tech powerhouse Microsoft believes it is a viable model.

Lisa Monaco, former Homeland Security Advisor under President Obama, said the idea of a single cyber agency ignores the important institutional knowledge that FBI and others bring to the whole of government approach to cyber.

"DHS is not the only entity in the federal government who has a very real responsibility for identifying and stopping terrorist attacks," said Monaco. "I think cyber is more of the same in terms of cross cutting nature and even more so, on steroids."

*** Supply chain risks are getting new attention in an updated risk management framework document from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST's Special Publication 800-37, Risk Management Framework for Information Systems and Organizations -- A System Life Cycle Approach for Security and Privacy, was first published in 2010, updated in 2014, and is now getting a refresh, with the standards agency seeking comment from the public and stakeholders.

Previous editions of 800-37 have mentioned supply chain security as one of numerous risks organizations face in working with external partners, but in the new revision, supply chain risks get special attention. The document advises that information system managers integrate supply chain risk management into their overall risk management outlook to address "untrustworthy suppliers, insertion of counterfeits, tampering, unauthorized production, theft, insertion of malicious code, and poor manufacturing and development practices" throughout the systems development lifecycle.

Supply chain risk is getting significant attention across government, in areas ranging from election technology to telecommunications to the internet of things. The Government Accountability Office is putting together a much-anticipated report on supply chain security, and agencies ranging from the Department of Commerce to the Federal Communications Commission are targeting foreign-owned IT and telecom gear manufacturers for new regulatory attention.

*** The Food and Drug Administration announced new steps to help ensure internet-connected medical devices meet an acceptable level of cybersecurity. The FDA is not aware of any cyberattacks that have directly affected a medical device being used by a patient, but vulnerabilities have been found in research settings, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement .

Part of this process is an FDA-sponsored report from the MITRE Corporation, the Medical Device Cybersecurity Regional Incident Preparedness and Response Playbook . This playbook is meant to be used by health care providers and walks them through cybersecurity considerations, starting with device procurement and progressing to training, detecting an attack and recovering from one. The FDA is also entering into two agreements to create information-sharing analysis organizations -- stakeholder-based groups that come up with governance models for sharing cyber threat information.

*** The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Big Data Project, launched in 2015, includes partnerships with five infrastructure-as-a-service collaborators -- Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, IBM, Microsoft Azure and the Open Commons Consortium -- to make its environmental data more easily accessible. Under the terms of the agreement, the NOAA data would be made freely available to the public, with the collaborators offering value-added services or third-party processing and applications.

Now, NOAA wants to fine tune the business model and finalize requirements for an enterprise solution for public data access. The agency is seeking "contractual arrangements" that will give the public continued access to a significant portion of its data through a cloud platform so the "untapped value" of the data can be leveraged to create new products and services. Such data use could include cloud-based high-performance computing as well as the integration of NOAA data into cloud-based tools to increase usage, as opposed to simply making the original NOAA data files available via the cloud.

*** The Federal Trade Commission could bear the brunt of enforcing national data privacy laws and other emerging areas of regulatory protections for citizens as new digital capabilities emerge, according to one commissioner.

"We need more rulemaking and penalty authorities" to bring to bear on companies that haven’t lived up to cybersecurity and data handling promises to their customers, said FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, a Democrat, at an Oct. 2 panel discussion hosted by the Atlantic magazine. The FTC, said Slaughter, has 70 economists in house to work on economic issues, but it is light on tech-savvy analysts who have a deep understanding of how tech works.

"We need a similar model" for tech, she said, "as our tech responsibilities grow."

NEXT STORY: Quick Hits for Oct. 3

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