Editorial: The VA's reminder

The case of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ stolen data should go down in history as one of those events that reminds everybody in government of the importance of security and privacy. Such high-profile mistakes have consequences — both good and bad.

On the bad side, there is the suggestion that the VA’s security efforts should get judicial oversight — something akin to the situation with the Interior Department. And it seems likely that this case will provide federal managers — some of whom are already leery about the concept of telework — with a reason to postpone implementing such programs.

On the positive side, however, the case should raise the visibility of security throughout government. Security experts always talk about assessing risk and balancing true and absolute security and privacy with convenience, speed and efficiency. It is often difficult for security experts to convince users of the need for what must seem like pesky security practices and procedures. During FCW Events’ recent CIO Summit, two security experts — one a fed and the other a former fed now working in the private sector — suggested that one of their biggest hurdles is convincing people that security matters.

The VA incident will, undoubtedly, help them make the case.

We suspect the number of people complaining about government security policies and practices has fallen off precipitously.

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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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