News in Brief

Classification by the numbers, website sprawl, a new DARPA deal and more

NARA claims progress on classification

Federal agencies are doing a better job of self-reporting on classified information within their charge, an annual report to President Barack Obama found.

The report, published by the National Archives and Records Administration, compiles classification activities across the federal government, something that had been previously reported separately. Among the report's findings is that the number of people with classification authority across the government is 2,269, the lowest recorded level. The report deemed that a positive trend.

The report also noted that under automatic, systematic and discretionary declassification review, agencies declassified 27,524,342 pages of historically valuable records.

Only one-quarter of federal websites support SSL

Federal websites are still failing to support and enforce encryption using SSL, and are not moving toward IPv6 compliance, according to an analysis of federal web domains by GitHub government evangelist Ben Balter.

Overall, the federal government has reduced its inventory of web domains from 1,640 to 1,229, with 1,000 of the domains currently live.

The Department of Health and Human Services maintains the most domains with 110. Other perpetrators of what Balter calls "domain sprawl" include the General Services Administration with 105, Treasury with 92 and Interior with 89.

About 25 percent of sites are now using Google Analytics -- a significant increase compared to the last time the government published a domain inventory, back in 2011.

DARPA taps R&D vendor

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon's high-tech development arm, chose Schafer Corp. to carry out R&D projects in the fields of cybersecurity, analytics and computing, the firm announced.

DARPA's Information Innovation Office, which focuses on national security applications for information science and software, awarded the three-year contract. Arlington, Va.-based Schafer has been working with DARPA for 26 years, the firm said.

'Operation Predator' app pays off

A suspected child predator collared by agents last fall hours after the rollout of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Operation Predator smartphone app, was sentenced in late June to more than eight years in prison.

Mark Robert Austin was arrested Sept. 13, 2013, by federal law enforcement 36 hours ICE rolled out its "Operation Predator" app designed to solicit information from the public about wanted suspected child predators.

ICE said following the national and regional publicity generated by the app's announcement, several members of the public called in tips that identified areas that Austin frequented. Agents from ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit and the FBI arrested the 49-year-old in Flint, Mich., charging him with downloading more than 100 images and nearly a dozen videos of child pornography.

ICE said in a June 30 statement that in addition to the 97 months in jail, Austin also faces seven years of probation and will be required to register as a sex offender.

Since its fall 2013 inception, ICE said its Operation Predator app has been downloaded more than 92,000 times from the iTunes App Store, and an Android version is currently under development.

"Sadly, the Internet and related technological advances have expanded the reach of predators looking to ensnare a child. But as this investigation demonstrates, technology is also a critical law enforcement tool," said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Detroit. "HSI will continue to leverage emerging technological advances to turn the tables on child predators seeking to corrupt the innocent."

DHS upgrades foreign-student website

The Department of Homeland Security launched several enhancements to its "Study in the States" website that allow foreign visitors to more easily access a variety of data on student and visitor exchange programs.

The three-year-old Study in the States site brings together the various federal agencies that play a role in implementing DHS's student visa and exchange visitor programs, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Citizenship and Immigration Services and Customs and Border Protection.

DHS said the site's four new features allow the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, housed within ICE's Homeland Security Investigations, to convey information about the sometimes-confusing international student process in a clear, interactive manner. SEVP monitors a million international F and M visa holders in the U.S. pursuing academic or vocational studies and their dependents. It also certifies schools and programs that enroll these students.

The new features include:

  • An interactive glossary to find definitions to the most-used terms in the international student process.
  • An "Ask a Question" section to get the answers to commonly asked questions about studying in the United States or school certification.
  • An enhanced School Search page to locate schools certified to enroll international students, using an interactive map, by name, state, educational program or visa type.
  • A mobile-ready version of Study in the States so users can easily view the site on smart phones or tablet computers.

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