When federal agency CIOs discuss the challenges that keep them up at night, there’s no lack of topics to explore. However, there’s one issue that is constantly bubbling to the top. According to Professional Services Council and Grant Thornton’s annual CIO study, cybersecurity is the top concern for federal IT leaders. This is likely to only increase, as 81 percent of CIOs in CIO Magazine’s annual study noted a greater involvement in cybersecurity in the most recent survey than in the past.
While there are new, increasingly advanced cybersecurity solutions constantly introduced, cyber criminals are nimble and have many resources at their disposal. It’s too easy for cyber criminals to stay a step ahead given misaligned incentives. In such an environment, it’s critical that agency approaches to cybersecurity start with a solid baseline that lies within the agency’s network. Just like network performance and reliability, security starts with visibility and automation, and successful efforts cannot exist in silos.
Network visibility can reveal a lot about an agency’s systems, from where the majority of traffic flows originate to the times of most activity. Similarly, network insights are valuable from a security perspective. Just as network visibility can identify when traffic flows require a change in network configuration, they can also point to anomalous traffic patterns that likely indicate a security breach. For example, if an agency typically sees most activity coming from within the United States during normal work hours, an influx of activity from Europe at 2:00 a.m. may be enough to trigger concern.
bywalkerj03-21-201708:47 AM - edited 03-21-201709:58 AM
It’s no surprise that the Internet of Things (IoT) is expanding. IHS predicts that the number of IoT-connected devices will grow to 75.4 billion in 2025. While greater connectivity increases innovation and operational flexibility, these devices raise concerns about network security.
In January 2017, the Government Business Council (GBC) surveyed 442 federal employees about the state of their network security and what their agencies are doing to secure the data at the edge. Sixty percent of respondents cited security as the most important performance feature when it comes to the devices and sensors their agency uses to transmit data, ranking above stability, speed and accuracy. Further, 89 percent of those surveyed felt it was very or extremely important that devices operating on the edge, such as IoT-connected devices, were secure from malicious attackers.
Despite this agreement, 58 percent of respondents are only somewhat, not very or not at all confident about the security of edge devices. The most commonly cited tactic for securing the edge is also one of the easiest approaches for hackers to work around: stringent password requirements. What is causing these security gaps? Insufficient funding, slow procurement and lack of technical expertise were highlighted as top challenges. However, agencies can take steps to protect their networks from the edge to the core.
Federal government IT professionals have always been committed to serving their fellow citizens. Long before there were IT departments or computers, federal employees were exploring ways to innovate and improve citizen services.
For example, in the 1880s the Census Bureau struggled to efficiently process data from a growing U.S. population. Bureau employee Herman Hollerith found a new way to process the increasingly large quantities of data the Bureau had collected during the 1880 census. Hollerith automated the tallying of data with a tabulating machine that became known as the Hollerith Machine and reduced processing tabulation time by nearly 900 percent.
In the 20th century we saw that same spirit of federal IT ingenuity displayed in the work of individuals like Dorothy Vaughn at NASA. Vaughn, whose story has been made famous by the film Hidden Figures, was a manager at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ (NACA) and took it upon herself to learn computer programming. Vaughn became critical to helping NASA incorporate IBM computers into its calculations. It’s important to note that Vaughn took the initiative herself to learn computer programming and understood the potential that emerging technologies would have on NASA’s mission.
These individuals became heroes at their agencies by taking risks and continually learning. This same spirit of discovery continues to move agencies forward today. Federal IT employees can improve how government serves the citizen and the warfighter and transform how their agencies meet their missions.
What does it take to become a federal IT hero? Start by tapping into professional curiosity, exploring emerging technologies and with experimentation.
Mobile devices have become ubiquitous in our society. According to the Digital Government Strategy group, more Americans access the internet from mobile devices than from desktop computers. These devices increase productivity in citizens’ personal lives and offer agencies the opportunity to more efficiently deliver services and meet mission objectives.
2017 will see the beginning of a new presidential administration and holds the potential to be a year of action. With this in mind, I’d like to propose five New Year’s resolutions for federal IT leadership and the new administration that will enable real change in 2017.
Establish IT as central to agency missions and retire legacy systems
Federal agencies are beginning to understand the potential of digital transformation and how it supports their missions. Yet in order to power these technologies, IT modernization is critical. Just as a Lamborghini won’t run up to its full potential on a dirt road, the most cutting edge technologies will be limited by outdated infrastructure.
This coming year, agencies must resolve to retire all legacy systems that are more than ten years old. If IT infrastructure is older than your first cell phone, it can’t support digital transformation securely or effectively. For example, software-defined infrastructure and network solutions that offer visibility and automation allow agencies to adjust to unpredictable network traffic and the explosion of data caused by digital transformation. It’s time to prioritize these network options and serve citizens, taxpayers and our armed forces with the digital experience that they get everywhere else.
Imagine two cars are racing. The first is a Ferrari, while the second is a 1999 Ford Taurus. The comparison seems unfair, yet this is one way to view the relationship between today’s government IT environment and IT expectations. The Ferrari represents government employee and citizen expectations for security and reliable data access. The Ford Taurus represents aging government networks that cannot keep pace with a wide variety of emerging security threats. In the current vehicles, it’s an impossible race to win.
However, this scenario doesn’t need to be the case. Machine learning in the network can help detect and negate attacks. Similar to the idea of automatically upgrading the engine in the Ford Taurus, weaving real-time intelligence via machine learning into the network infrastructure can help keep pace with emerging threats. In a world where attacks can occur at any time, the network needs agile defensive and offensive capabilities. With machine learning built into the network, a heightened level of awareness is integrated in to your environment to address zero-day threats as well as other service disruptive anomalies.
While many machine-learning capabilities are still being developed, this is the time for agencies to prepare. Government should take three steps to leverage machine learning for your network within the next few years.
From cloud to the Internet of Things, digital transformation is catching hold in government. While agencies are becoming better at identifying new technologies to support their needs and are working with industry to find solutions to mission challenges, innovation isn’t just about technologies themselves. To effectively speed IT advances, agencies are now considering a DevOps methodology.
A recent study found 78 percent of federal IT professionals feel DevOps can accelerate innovation at their agency. DevOps is a culture of trust and collaboration in which people use the right tools for automation to achieve continuous delivery. As a result issues can be resolved in days rather than months.
How can agencies know if DevOps is right for them and how can they adapt?
It is no surprise that cybersecurity is a growing concern for the federal government. The most recent FISMA report reflects 77,000 successfully executed cyber incidents occurring in 2015, a number that has increased each year. Part of the growing challenge is due to the diverse and ever-expanding number of endpoints and data sources for agencies to secure, especially on government campuses. With this landscape as a backdrop, campus environments require a tailored approach to security and encryption due to their varied department needs and multiple physical locations. Here are traits to look for:
byselina.lo09-26-201610:41 AM - edited 09-26-201601:16 PM
I recently had the privilege of speaking at a White House organized event that highlighted the importance of government next-generation wireless access. In partnership with U.S. Ignite and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the federal government is investing $400 million in what they call the Advanced Wireless Research Initiative, meant to advance research in the journey to 5G and next-generation wireless technology.
Innately affordable and offering speeds of up to a gigabit per second, Wi-Fi is both accessible and efficient. Ruckus Wireless, recently acquired by Brocade, delivers on the need for dependability, even in radio frequency (RF) challenged environments, through adaptive antenna technology.
One of the most revolutionary applications of next-generation wireless infrastructure is within smart cities. High performance Wi-Fi access and analytics allow municipalities to improve everything from guest Internet access to foot and commuter traffic patterns to first responder efficiency. For example, cities can leverage Wi-Fi infrastructure to collect footfall analytics, which can predict commuter wait times, feed them to a train-scheduling algorithm and improve city traffic and efficiency. First responders, on the other hand, can leverage Wi-Fi for speedy analytics to receive information about an accident before they reach the scene.
At Brocade’s Federal Forum, government and industry will come together to discuss how new, innovative technologies will change the way the federal government serves citizens and warfighters through network modernization and the concept of the New IP. Many of the conversations at Federal Forum will focus on the possibilities modernization enables, but what does this mean in action? What does the technology look like?
To answer these questions, keynotes, breakouts and panel sessions will be coupled with a series of demonstrations in the Technology Pavilion. The Technology Pavilion will showcase advancements in network management and data visibility and provide an interactive experience that can be tailored to fit specific interests and questions from visitors to the Pavilion. Those who attend can expect to explore various aspects of software-defined networking (SDN), network security, high-performance analytics technology and much more.
2016 will mark the fifth year government and industry leaders have come together to discuss IT infrastructure modernization, emerging tech trends and more at the 2016 Federal Forum, presented by Brocade.
For those with a greater interest in the technologies impacting government, the tech track provides a deeper level of insight. The tech track complements the technology pavilion and is designed specifically for techies, covering topics like network security, software-defined networking and DevOps.
As we prepare to take a deeper dive into network modernization at the Forum, here’s a preview of three key conversations that will frame the technical track.
Awareness of the need for data center consolidation has come a long way since 2010 when the Office of Management and Budget launched the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI). However, while there is no lack of conversation on the issue, measurable results have been limited and the number of centers in operation has only increased.
The good news is that data center consolidation efforts have generated considerable savings over time – an estimated $2.8 billion from 2011 to 2015 according to recent GAO reports. Yet the same report stated that of the 10,584 data centers in operation, only 3,125 were closed in 2015 - revealing missed opportunities for greater savings. The benefits of consolidated, optimized data centers are tremendous: application effectiveness, programmatic control, security and data integrity, elasticity and scalability, and automation. All of these ensure agencies have a robust data center architecture that meets their current and future requirements.
Current directives like the recently released Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) support CIOs and agency leaders. The initiative requires agencies to not only report on their data consolidation efforts, but also optimize existing technology infrastructure and transition to more efficient options, such as cloud. The DCOI provides actionable guidance and places a freeze on new data centers. CIOs are now more empowered and driven to reduce government’s data center count to 1,000.
Government networks now face a multitude of users demanding access to massive amounts of data, but they’re losing steam trying to keep up.
The legacy frameworks propelling them forward aren’t getting any more capable, either. But through a revolutionary networking practice called the New IP, limited and wasteful networks can transform into open networks — and they can do it now.
bywalkerj02-08-201608:31 AM - edited 02-08-201610:29 AM
The recent explosion of connected devices, big data and cloud computing has led to revolutionary changes in our use of technology. While these innovative technologies have unleashed unparalleled possibilities for government agencies, they have also seriously threatened network security. Every new piece of technology added to the network – from sensors, to laptops, to cloud datacenters, to mobile phones – is a new endpoint that has the potential to be compromised.
bytony.celeste11-09-201507:10 AM - edited 11-09-201507:11 AM
The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) is poised to support big changes in federal IT. A recent survey found that 79 percent of feds believe FITARA will positively affect the way IT is viewed at their agency by helping CIOs improve communication, making IT leaders more accountable and reinforcing their positions as integral and critical stakeholders.
After this summer’s high profile OPM breach, there’s no question that cyber attacks are affecting the federal government with an alarming frequency. According to the Government Accountability Office, data breaches at government agencies involving personal data have jumped 91 percent over the past eight years. This Cybersecurity Awareness Month, it’s time to consider all elements of a secure environment – starting with the network.
Agencies today are being asked to do a lot with their data. With information generated by new sources - from social media outlets to mobile devices - agencies must store, monitor, organize, access, and, most importantly, make sense of data in a way that allows them to best serve the American citizenry.
The data center is the eye of this data storm, and it’s essential that IT leaders have the best tools at their disposal to ensure information flows seamlessly throughout the network. These tools go beyond technology alone and must also include a strategic approach to acquisition planning.
byAnthony Robbins05-13-201508:18 AM - edited 05-13-201511:18 AM
As federal agencies rapidly transition into a new age of cloud, security, mobile, social and big data-driven information technology solutions, agency CIOs are finding that their roles are changing as well. The recently passed Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) has the ability to inspire a profound change as it impacts the role of the CIO. The CIO of the Future is no longer simply an IT manager or a political role with little designated authority, but a strategic advisor with a role more similar to that of an enterprise CIO. As IT becomes the centerpiece of agency missions and activities, the CIO is becoming an essential part of agency leadership.
bywalkerj04-27-201508:37 AM - edited 04-27-201510:24 AM
With breaches affecting government entities from the White House to the Department of State, high profile security incidents have dominated headlines over the past year. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) recognized more than 46,000 security incidents in 2013. With these issues in mind, it comes as no surprise that a recent Market Connections survey of federal IT decision makers and influencers found that only 26 percent of agencies feel their network data is fully protected.
The Internet of Things is making a huge impact on the public sector and changing the role of everyday devices, from watches to thermometers. As government’s understanding of the IoT expands, agencies are now thinking in terms of what they can do as a result of these connected devices. This is what we define as the “Internet of Things You Can Do.”
byAnthony Robbins02-23-201510:06 AM - edited 02-24-201504:58 AM
There is no question that security is becoming one of government’s top IT concerns. Breaches have become so frequent that it is no longer a question of if they will occur, but when.
According to a GAO report, the number of security incidents at federal agencies that have involved the potential exposure of citizens’ personal information has increased from 10,400 in 2009 to more than 25,500 in 2013. As network security remains the most critical area of vulnerability prevention, government agencies are in need of next-gen solutions that don’t stifle innovation.
Over a series of Federal Insights posts, we are putting together a checklist to help agencies make the shift to the New IP. Demanding open standards from technology providers is a critical first step to opening the doors to innovation through the New IP. Software-based IT infrastructure is the next step on the roadmap to the New IP.
The federal government faces a daunting IT challenge. Due to aging legacy infrastructure and out-of-control maintenance costs, agencies are struggling to keep pace with commercial best practices. What can agencies do to align with the IT best practices that are commonplace in the commercial space?
In August, leaders in government and industry met at the Federal Forum to talk about changing the network conversation to bring the federal government into the 21st century. In the federal IT market, the network is the next frontier, and all eyes are on our federal IT leaders to see where this wave of change takes us.