Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program; A Game Changer.

An effective cybersecurity strategy requires more than a periodic safety check. That’s the thinking behind continuous monitoring, a risk management approach that seeks to keep organizations constantly apprised of their IT security status.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology describes continuous monitoring as providing an ongoing awareness of security threats and vulnerabilities. That approach provides a sharp contrast to what has been the federal norm of annual security reviews and more thorough recertifications every three years.

The rapid proliferation of malware and other cyberattacks encourages a faster monitoring tempo. IT security vendor Kaspersky Lab said in late 2013 that it was detecting 315,000 new malicious files each day, up from 200,000 new files per day the previous year. Panda Security, a security solutions provider, reported earlier this year that 20 percent of the malware that has ever existed was created in 2013.

As the onslaught continues, the federal sector has been taking steps to improve its situational awareness. Indeed, agencies have been following continuous monitoring directives and guidelines for a few years now. The Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program, which the Department of Homeland Security manages with support from the General Services Administration, is the government’s latest take on continuous monitoring. CDM provides a more comprehensive approach and makes funding available for agencies to adopt the security practice.

The [CDM] program reflects the evolution of continuous diagnostic programs over the past 10 years,” a DHS official said.

However, Ron Ross, a NIST fellow, acknowledged that continuous monitoring is difficult given the number of IT systems in the federal sector and agencies’ diverse missions and business functions. “It is a big job to have a good continuous monitoring program so we can give senior leaders the best information that we can possibly give them,” he added.

Why it matters

The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) of 2002 requires agencies to review their information security programs at least annually, and Office of Management and Budget Circular A-130 calls for agencies to review their systems’ security controls at least every three years.

The government’s current security push, however, favors a more dynamic approach. The emphasis on continuous monitoring reflects the realization that nothing stays the same in the IT environment. The threat landscape changes with each new attack vector and malware variety, while agencies’ systems and networks are subject to frequent reconfiguration.

As a result, a security regimen that keeps the IT infrastructure locked down today might not provide adequate protection tomorrow. The moment-to-moment vigilance of continuous monitoring seeks to ensure that an agency’s security controls remain relevant.

 

Editor’s Note: Ideas inspired from;


John, Moore. “Can CDM change the game?– FCW.”

FCW. N.p., 10 Oct 2014. Web. 22 Dec. 2015.

Long Live Mother Earth!

The global climate is a multi-faceted issue, especially when it comes to how human behavior (seven billion humans) impact the planet. Recognizing the importance of reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, the world’s nations adopted the first international agreement to limit the causes of anthropogenic climate change at the conclusion of the Paris climate talks on Saturday, 12 December 2015.

During this year’s conference, leaders from around the globe came together in Paris to attend one of the largest international conferences ever to review the implementation of the United Nations (UN) Framework on Climate Change to formulate a global resolution designed to slow and eventually halt climate change. Indeed, negotiators from over 195 countries came together to decide that the earth which we inhabit is worth saving—from deforestation, carbon emissions, human emissions and pollution, disappearing coastlines, rising sea levels, and extreme weather patterns—all of which are effects of climate change.

Climate change is the source of much controversy as many people do not believe it exists. Despite the various beliefs, climate change is real. In fact, since the climate talks in Paris are now over, the world has set quite a serious goal for itself: limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or failing that, 2 degrees Celsius. Achieving this goal is necessary because rising temperatures have already had negative impacts on ice caps and ocean chemistry (www.theguardian.com).

Listed below are just a few excerpts from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”:

  • (A) Parties account for anthropogenic emissions and removals in accordance with methodologies and common metrics assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement;
  • (B) Parties ensure methodological consistency, including on baselines, between the communication and implementation of nationally determined contributions;
  • (C) Parties strive to include all categories of anthropogenic emissions or removals in their nationally determined contributions and, once a source, sink or activity is included, continue to include it;
  • (D) Parties shall provide an explanation of why any categories of anthropogenic emissions or removals are excluded

Although this excerpt only represents a portion of the 32 page agreement, the tone of the document emphasizes the seriousness of the outcome this agreement is intended to produce. While climate change is not a problem that can be solved overnight, there are ways that individuals can make a difference to increase environmental sustainability while decreasing the size of one’s carbon footprint.

Ways that you can mitigate environmental degradation (www.nytimes.com):

  • Reduce your consumption of red meat:
    • According to the New York Times, “You are better off eating vegetables from Argentina than red meat from a local farm”
      • More carbon emissions come from the production of red meat and dairy than from the transportation of food.

         

  • Take advantage of public transportation (bus, train, subway, etc.):
    • People who commute by car to work on a daily basis significantly produce more carbon annually than those who rely on public transportation.
  • Eat everything in your refrigerator:
    • Americans waste up to an estimated 40 percent of household food—amounting to almost 1,400 calories per person daily
      • Food waste not only occupies a considerable amount of landfill space, it also adds methane to the atmosphere. as it decomposes, which subsequently increases carbon emissions.
      • Plan meals ahead of time, freeze food before it spoils, and reduce your portion sizes.

       

  • Drive less and avoid first class seating when traveling by plane:
    • Travelers can reduce their carbon footprint by traveling in economy class as first-class seats take up more room, which means more flights for the same number of individuals.
    • However, driving can be worse because driving from coast to coast creates more carbon emissions than a plane seat.
    • If you really want to do your part to reduce your carbon footprint, eliminate travel all together by connecting via Skype or other video chat avenues.

       

  • Adopt a dog or a cat:
    • Although dogs and cats have diets that are high in meat, their meat consumption comes mostly from leftover animal parts that we as humans do not want
      • According to the New York Times, when a cow is slaughtered, almost 50 percent of the animal is removed as unwanted or unfit for human consumption” and usually ends up in pet food as a byproduct of human meat consumption.

       

  • Replace your gas guzzling SUV, but avoid purchasing a second vehicle:
    • “Before you even start driving that new car to add to your first one, you’ve already burned up three and a half times your annual carbon budget” by encouraging the manufacturers to utilize raw materials and metals.
    • Improve your gas mileage by adhering to speed limits, driving defensively, and keeping your tires inflated (United States Department of Energy).

       

  • Consume less stuff, waste less stuff:
    • Avoid the consumption of useless raw materials.
    • Reduce the amount of waste you produce.
    • Remember that not all materials are worth recycling as the New York Times explains, recycling a magazine every day for an entire year saves less carbon than is emitted from four days of running your refrigerator.

In sum, the Paris climate negotiations were a step in the right direction in regards to mitigating climate change. However, the most effective sustainable solution to climate change will require an absolute commitment by individuals, public policies, governing institutions and the global energy system to make fundamental changes in behavior that will foster the development of clean energy and reduce our dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels. Ultimately, people around the world must be willing to act in ways that are conducive to sustainable environmental development for generations to come; after all, we only have one earth on which to live and thrive.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Internet of Things’, may change ‘Internet of Everything’

The term; Internet of Things (IoT) emerged which means, a network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which are enabled to collect and exchange data. IoT is an ultimate idea which is going to change the entire internet system. Yes, something that neither the Government nor any agencies can afford to ignore.

Internet researchers believe that IoT is the future of internet; shouldn’t we gear-up for this change? This much-hyped idea is not just an alarm, but time for the entire market to evolve. Iot is exponentially much risky, challenging, yet rewarding than any technical arrangement that was deployed yesterday. Increasingly connected, sensor-laden and data-driven systems are poised to change everything from national security to office-space management. The only issue is that, implementing IoT would generate more data, therein increasing complexity which most of the agencies couldn’t handle.

Cisco posits that IoT will generate $4.6 trillion for the public sector before 2025 in value added and costs saved. And although the General Services Administration (GSA) has not yet come close to those sorts of returns, the agency— which manages nearly 10,000 government-owned buildings around the country— has pioneered IoT building management with its GSALink initiative. Read more in the Original article: Internet of Everything: A $4.6 Trillion Public-Sector Opportunity. Collecting 29 million data points per day from myriad sensors throughout its buildings, GSA is able to monitor everything from light use to humidity, enabling the agency to boost productivity and promote good health by optimizing conditions when workers are present and saving on energy costs when they’re not.

Other big adopters include the intelligence community and the Defense Department. Warfighters can benefit from sensors that improve their tactical awareness, while vitals monitors can help commanders know who’s healthy or injured. Gary Hall, chief technology officer for Federal Defense at Cisco said, “I do see the Defense Department out in front [of IoT].” Hall added that there is plenty of room for crossover. Municipal experiments with smart lighting or parking, for instance, could inform similar adoption on agency campuses or military bases. “I’ve been on a lot of military bases, and the parking situation could certainly be improved,” he quipped.

The term “Internet of Things” refers to the physical elements of a connected network — the “things” — while the term “Internet of Everything” is all encompassing including: servers, sensors, data flows between them, people interpreting the data and even people talking to other people about the system.

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Now the most important question remains unanswered; Can humans deal with the volume?

The number of connected “things” is expected to balloon from around 16 billion today to 50 billion by 2020, with skyrocketing data generation spurring a need for a 750 percent expansion in data center capacity. Hall pointed to the problem of “big, large data” because both the overall volume and the size of individual files have exploded. That creates a need for pre-processing with machines rather than people. He stated that, “Humans can’t deal with the volume of data we’re producing”. The CTO of Federal Defence concluded by warning the Government agencies quoting, “It’s not something they can avoid.”

 

Editor’s Note: Ideas inspired from;


Noble, Zach. “Are Agencies Really Ready for the Internet of Things?
— FCW.”FCW. N.p., 1 June 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year….to Avoid a Government Shutdown

When we think of the holiday season, giving your time, resources and effort to make a positive difference in the world in which we live becomes an imperative for spreading holiday cheer. The United States Congress, however, has been putting forth their efforts for a different cause during this holiday season; preventing a government shutdown. In September, Congress was able to divert a government shutdown by collaborating on a provisional resolution to fund the government through December 11th, but with only a few days remaining until the 11th, a December shutdown now looms over Congress.

On 11 December 2015, the government will shutdown if Congress does not decide on several issues ranging from federal government spending to federal grant funding, from education to the nation’s refugee resettlement program. In order to avert a shutdown, congressional policymakers must pass a substantial funding bill in just a few short days.

As the new House speaker, Paul Ryan has been urging Republicans to stand in solidarity on issues that include acting to tighten security on the nation’s refugee resettlement program following the November terrorist attacks in Paris. Furthermore, Speaker Paul Ryan is encouraging his colleagues not to let Democrats use the calendar deadline against them when a government funding bill comes to the floor before December 11th. At the same time, Senate Democrats have already begun to prepare their end-of-year strategy for passing an omnibus spending by holding a bipartisan Senate lunch discussion on December 3rd in which policymakers will zero in on how to handle pending tax legislation and the nearing spending bill deadline (www.politico.com).

In the event that Democrat and Republican lawmakers cannot compromise to pass legislation to fund the federal government, a government shutdown would inconvenience citizens across the country and burden many whose personal economy is tied to the federal government in one way or another (www.money.cnn.com). The diagram below highlights eight negative impacts that occur as a result of a government shutdown:

The good news, according to politico.com, is that virtually no one in Democratic or Republican leadership believes there will be a government shutdown. Indeed, Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have entered a phase of deal negotiation that includes the trading of proposals to fund the federal government through the end of fiscal year 2016. In fact, one part of the ‘omnibus’ spending bill that both Democrats and Republicans are open to reforming is the Visa Waiver Program, which currently allows travelers from 38 countries to visit the United States for three months without a visa (www.politico.com). However, the Visa Waiver Program is just one of about one hundred different policy provisions that both parties must successfully negotiate before December 11th.

As the budget showdown looms during this holiday season, we can only hope that policymakers will keep in mind the greater good for the country while maintaining a sense of holiday spirit. For those who may be less hopeful, it would be wise to contact your local representatives to voice your concerns about the impending budget showdown. After all, government spending and federal grants pay for healthcare, schools, public safety, and a plethora of other programs that affect all Americans all year round.