The best of the federal blogosphere

Don't get hijacked
Utah's Dave Fletcher
Jan. 25

The news that a hacker was offering to sell administrative control to a number of government websites, including Utah.gov, got Utah's CIO — and blogger — Dave Fletcher wondering how that would work.

"Problem is, Utah.gov is not a simple construct with an administrative console that controls it all so what exactly is this hacker selling for $99?" he writes. "The Utah.gov domain consists of about 6 million pages, over 950 services, dynamic feeds, all somewhat linked together with a central portal, which itself is an entire suite of applications built to support the complex array of interactions between citizens and government. It appears that the hacker gained access to a lightly used subdomain that is not even managed by the state's central IT so this was reviewed, patched, etc."

Although the risk of some anonymous buyer getting control of the state's website appears remote, the incident highlights a vulnerability that Web administrators need to be vigilant about, Fletcher writes. It's possible for hackers to gain access to parts of sites through such weak points and use them to post ads for erectile dysfunction drugs or other items commonly sold through spam ads. The goal is to increase the number of links from external pages back to the disreputable merchant's site so that it rises in search engine rankings.

"Even organizations with well-structure[d] standards and deployment policies and procedures fall prey to this," Fletcher writes. "With government being as diverse as it is, someone in each organization needs to remain vigilant and aware of these kinds of activities."

The speed of the crowd
Federal Communications Commission
Jan. 25

The Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer Broadband Test tool, which launched in spring 2010, has been gathering data on the Internet connection speeds of more than a million users. Now FCC has released an application programming interface to the developer community to enable others to use the data.

There's already enough information to demonstrate some practical uses, writes Michael Byrne, FCC’s geographic information officer, in recounting an FCC presentation at the ESRI Federal User Conference in January.

"The particularly exciting part of this presentation was the ability to display projected speeds at different geographies within standard error, all extrapolated out from the speed test data points that were input by users," he writes. "By using the 1 million-plus records submitted by users, we were able to display a map that shows the probability of a certain level of mobile broadband speed at any given spot in the U.S." 

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto
General Services Administration
Jan. 12

General Services Administration CIO Casey Coleman recently got a demonstration of Anybots’ robot, which can stand in for a person who controls it remotely via the Web.

"You can be home and view activity in your office or warehouse as well as talk to employees and visitors,” she writes. “You can see and be seen! Anybot was very cool!"

The demonstration was part of a larger presentation on emerging technologies. Although Coleman does not identify the event, robotic technology was apparently a major aspect of it. She also writes about robots that can protect soldiers or increase mobility for elderly people and those with disabilities.

"I was surprised to see that Microsoft even has robotics developer software," Coleman writes. "Who knew?"

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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