The Circuit

Calling All Computer Users

Federal officials are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to raising awareness about the importance of computer security.

The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, released by the Bush administration last week, expands the focus from the federal government to include industry, academia and citizens. The home user may be the hardest to reach and the least likely to have adequate security, officials say.

Sallie McDonald, a member of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Board's Information Systems Security Committee, made a plea during her speech at the E-Gov Information Assurance conference in Washington, D.C., Sept. 17 that every attendee do his or her part to secure home computers.

Whenever a friend, relative, acquaintance or co-worker mentions a new Internet connection on their home computer, stop and take the time to ask them about the steps they've taken to secure that system, and follow through to make sure they take the right steps, McDonald said.

E-Gov on the Move

It appears that e-government is making strides. A working prototype gateway for the e-Authentication initiative will be available for federal agencies by the end of this month, said McDonald, who is also assistant commissioner for information assurance and critical infrastructure protection at the General Services Administration.

GSA is leading the e-Authentication initiative team for the Office of Management and Budget. The prototype gateway developed for the team by Mitretek Systems Inc. will test the ability of agencies to accept multiple forms of authentication — including digital certificates for high-security transactions and passwords for lower-risk services — and the processes for registering users for different types of authentication.

The team is also evaluating more than 50 industry responses to the request for information for developing a final gateway by September 2003, McDonald said.

Money Talks

Federal agencies last week turned in their second annual reports required under the Government Information Security Reform Act, and so far, the news is good.

The reports include much more information than those submitted last year thanks to detailed performance measurements included in OMB's guidance. That information will be an integral part of the White House's fiscal 2004 budget development process, Kamela White, an OMB policy analyst, told the Computer System Security and Privacy Advisory Board Sept. 17.

After a review of the initial submissions, "we are seeing progress," White said. "There are many uses for the information that's coming in." The corrective action plans, which are due later this month, will also be a key source of information for budget decisions, she said.

The Waiting Game

Speaking of money, expect Congress to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government going once the new fiscal year kicks in Oct. 1. Lawmakers have made little progress on fiscal 2003 funding bills — in fact, Congress hasn't passed a single one. Included in the bills is money for a host of IT projects such as the Agriculture Department's Common Computing Environment and the FBI's computer modernization program known as Trilogy.

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