News in Brief

Data Act standards, a deputy CIO opening and more

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OMB finalizes data standards for new spending disclosure

The Office of Management and Budget has cleared a big hurdle in its bid to comply with the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, finalizing 57 data standards that all agencies will have to use in their financial systems.

The Data Act, which demands more granular disclosure of federal spending, requires agencies to operate from a common set of data standards when publishing financial information on USASpending.gov. OMB announced in a Sept. 1 blog post that it had completed work on the standards, in partnership with the Bureau of Fiscal Service at Treasury.

New data elements devised to implement the Data Act include outlays; obligations; definitions of object classes or categories of spending; the source appropriations account from which an expenditure is authorized; and program activity (of which there are more than 4,500 in the administration's fiscal 2016 budget proposal).

One sticking point for transparency groups is the decision by OMB and Treasury to retain the proprietary DUNS number, owned by Dun and Bradstreet, as the single, government-wide identifier for entities doing business with the government. Critics of DUNS have pointed out in the past that data linked to DUNS numbers -- for example, spending information in the Recovery Act spending database -- can disappear once the contract to use DUNS expires. Most commentators in a GitHub repository set up to receive comment on the data standards expressly sought the elimination of a proprietary unique identifier.

Interior seeks deputy CIO

The Department of the Interior is seeking a number two tech official. The deputy CIO at Interior is a senior executive service job, posted at a minimum salary of $137,494 in a listing on USAJOBS.

The deputy CIO works at the agency's D.C. headquarters, and is responsible for delivering IT services, managing the technology portfolio in accordance with federal laws and regulation, and assisting in budgeting and capital planning across the department. In addition, Interior is looking for a candidate who will be able to receive and maintain a top secret/secret compartmentalized information clearance, although an active clearance is not required to apply.

Interior Department IT ranges from the popular Instagram account of the National Park Service to the industrial control systems that operate the floodgates on the Hoover Dam, and hundreds of other water projects and irrigation facilities.

Former Secret Service agent pleads guilty in bitcoin con

Sometimes, it seems, federal employees can be a bit too skilled in handling complex data for their own good.

A now-former Secret Service agent admitted in federal court on Aug. 31 that he used his intricate knowledge of electronic currency and money transfer to steal almost a million dollars’ worth of bitcoin credits from alleged criminals. Shaun Bridges had been a Secret Service special agent for about six years in the Baltimore Field Office, assigned to the Electronic Crimes Task Force, and was assigned to look into the nefarious Silk Road online drug/contraband marketplace, according to a Justice Department statement.

In a court proceeding in Northern California, Bridges pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice in connection with his theft of digital currency during the investigation. He is slated for sentencing Dec. 7.

Behavioral cyber tools going commercial

Los Alamos National Laboratory has signed a strategic alliance with Ernst & Young LLP to commercialize advanced behavioral cybersecurity tools.

Los Alamos’ PathScan anomaly detection tool, which had been used exclusively by federal agencies, will be the first tool that will be made available through the alliance.

According to Los Alamos, PathScan will be one of most advanced cybersecurity tools available to the private sector based on its behavioral analysis approach to detecting threats. The tool is designed to detect threat actors once they have breached an organization’s perimeter, but before they can inflict serious damage. It searches for deviations from normal patterns of communication that an intrusion might generate.

PathScan’s move to the commercial marketplace, according to Los Alamos, was aided by the Transition to Practice program, an initiative of the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate.

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