News in Brief

DHS network scanning authority, federal lab feedback and more

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OMB gives DHS enhanced scanning authority for federal networks

The Office of Management and Budget has given the Department of Homeland Security enhanced authority to scan federal networks for cyber threats on a regular basis, something DHS had long sought. The measure is meant to help the government react more quickly to major cyber incidents.

"Growing cybersecurity threats make it ever more important for the federal government to maintain comprehensive information security controls to assess and mitigate emerging risks," OMB Deputy Director for Management Beth Cobert wrote in an Oct. 3 blog post.

Guidance issued by OMB Director Shaun Donovan states that the new approach will "provide a consistent scanning methodology that quickly identifies risks and vulnerabilities that may have governmentwide implications."

Federal labs need to reach out to potential customers

The federal organization that helps transfer government-developed technologies into the mainstream U.S. economy needs to get in better touch with its private-sector side, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer has taken steps to communicate with potential customers, including small businesses and entrepreneurs but has not obtained feedback from those entities to assess their needs when designing and implementing technology transfer initiatives, GAO said in a report released on Oct. 3.

Organized in 1974 and formally chartered in 1986, FLC is a nationwide network of federal laboratories that helps link those laboratories' research results and technologies with the commercial market. The consortium's website says the network has 300 federal laboratories and centers and their parent agencies as members.

GAO said the consortium needs to expand its communications with businesses and entrepreneurs because it is missing opportunities to better meet their needs. For example, in 2012, when FLC was developing a Web-based search tool to help potential customers identify relevant federal technology transfer opportunities, the consortium discussed how to implement the tool with its member labs and agencies but did not assess the needs of potential customers to ensure the tool would provide relevant information in a format they could use.

The study also states that although FLC officials said they conducted testing to make sure the new website worked as intended before launching it, they did not involve potential customers in the tests.

GAO recommended that FLC work with its members to broaden and deepen communication with potential customers to solicit their feedback on initiatives and develop performance measures to gauge the success of those efforts.

NIST funds cybersecurity research center

The National Institute of Standards and Technology awarded a contract to operate a Federally Funded Research and Development Center to support the work of the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, GCN reports.

The cybersecurity center was set up in partnership with the state of Maryland and Montgomery County, Md., in February 2012. It is dedicated to helping businesses protect their data by drawing experts from government, academia and industry to help identify security solutions.

NGA seeks help with classified spectral library

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is looking for a small business to assist in the development of a classified spectral library data system, Defense Systems reports. The program could provide analysts with a way to quickly identify materials in an image by providing detailed information about them.

In a request for proposals, NGA officials said they plan to award a small-business contract for the Nonconventional Exploitation Factors Data System, a database of surface reflection parameters that contains measurements for more than 400 materials that can be used to identify objects ranging from camouflage to paint.

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