States get SmartBuy discounts

SafeBoot extends USDA’s discount prices for encryption to state, local governments

USDA encryption made easy

The Agriculture Department’s SmartBuy contract with SafeBoot provides licenses for 180,000 users, and each license entitles the user to apply data protection to as many as five devices. The contract provides device encryption, full-disk encryption, port monitoring controls, hardware, and a year of maintenance and support departmentwide, said Sean Lyons, SafeBoot’s director of federal and state operations.

Full-disk encryption entails a handshake, meaning users must authenticate their identities before the encryption software will let the device boot or load the operating system. After SafeBoot validates a user’s information, the software brings up Microsoft Windows with a process called password synchronization so that the user must log on only once to gain access to various applications.

“As soon as you make security difficult, people will complain or won’t use it,” Lyons said.

— Mary Mosquera

The Agriculture Department has made it easier for state and local governments to buy data security software by including them in the department’s first order under the federal SmartBuy contract for encryption products.

USDA awarded the SafeBoot/Spectrum Systems partnership a task and delivery order worth $1.8 million. The department also announced that state and local governments can order directly from SmartBuy for a limited time and take advantage of USDA’s volume-discount prices.

“A lot of our work is with state governments, especially our service-based organizations in counties,” said Robert Suda, USDA’s associate chief information officer for integration and operations. Some states will go forward with their data protection efforts because of USDA’s procurement, he said.

SafeBoot and Spectrum Systems are offering state and local governments a special promotion, which expires Oct. 29, to buy SafeBoot encryption products based on USDA’s prices, said Sean Lyons, SafeBoot’s director of federal and state operations. “In essence, they’re getting access to our technology at a quantity discount for 180,000 seats.”

More than five states have signed up, Lyons said, but he declined to say which ones.

McAfee announced Oct. 8 it was acquiring SafeBoot for $350 million.
Wil Pelgrin, director of the New York State Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure, said USDA and SafeBoot agreed to let state and local governments buy at the favorable terms for a limited time. Pelgrin leads the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, which promotes common cybersecurity measures among states.

“This opened up areas of opportunities for state and local governments [that] may not have even gone into this arena but for the fact that now it is cost-effective and easy to do,” Pelgrin said. In August, he directed New York state agencies to encrypt all laptop PCs and mobile devices by December 2008.

Some state agencies do not understand the need for encryption and other components of data security, Pelgrin said. The opportunity to use ready-made requirements and other procurement specifications and volume discounts available through SmartBuy will accelerate the culture change necessary for protecting sensitive data, he said.

“It opens the door,” Pelgrin said. “Then the bar, which is at one level, keeps getting raised higher, and we keep moving it up to a higher level of security.”

Pelgrin said he expects to communicate with all 10 vendor teams on the SmartBuy encryption contract to request terms similar to those offered to federal agencies that select those vendors. He plans to ask other federal agencies to insert language in their encryption orders to request that vendors extend federal volume discounts to state and local governments for a limited time.

USDA has a department-wide deadline of March 2008 for encrypting all mobile devices, after which it will begin encrypting desktop PCs. It has begun a small-scale deployment of device encryption among 500 users in several agencies, which focuses on users who handle personal information.

USDA’s National Information Technology Center will direct the implementation, Suda said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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