July 31, 2011 By Dan Lohrmann
“As promised, members of the Anonymous hacking movement have released hundreds of megabytes of documents that they say were stolen from government security contractor ManTech.
The data released on the Pirate Bay file-sharing site late Friday contain nearly 400 megabytes of documents -- spreadsheets, résumés, planning documents, even photographs -- that appear to have come from the government contractor….
Anonymous said it was releasing the data to embarrass the government contractor, which recently signed a five-year deal to provide managed security services for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
The list of government agencies and contractors that have been hacked by the group Anonymous is nothing short of astounding. From Apple to NATO, and from India to Turkey, the hacking headlines continue on almost a daily basis.
Yes, some of suspected Anonymous hackers were recently arrested. Still, many more appear to be at large.
In a related turn of events, Anonymous computers were hacked by a former member named Ryan Cleary, who was reportedly angry with the group’s governance structure. According to one UK website, Mr. Cleary and some friends had now formed a splinter hacking group.
If you are feeling a bit uneasy by these events – you're not alone. All of this hacking seems far to easy, although the skills and abilities of these illegal organizations should not be underestimated. As I have stated in numerous blog entries over at CSO.com (see: Lohrmann on GovSpace), the bad guys are way ahead of the good guys right now. This is a battle which won’t be ending soon.
What’s can be done by state and local governments? Network World offered these “7 Ways to Avoid Being Hacked by Anonymous.” It’s a nice list, but offers the same basic advice given to governments and corporations for several years. We all need better passwords, security patches and end-user awareness training – and yes, it is difficult to keep these things going over the long-term. The hackers only need to be right once - but our job never ends.
On a more personal note, this latest ManTech hack hits a bit closer to home. I’ve received several emails over the past few days saying things like, “Check this out - didn’t you work for ManTech?”
Yes, I did work for ManTech as a Technical Director for four years in UK in the mid-1990s, and I still have friends there. They are a good company, and I have many fond memories of our life in North Yorkshire, England. I certainly wish them all the best as they recover from this situation.
Any thoughts you can share on the recent string of hacking attacks? Any stories to share about what your government is doing to protect citizen information?
July 16, 2011 By Dan Lohrmann
Going “Back to the Future” may no longer be just for the movies. The intelligence community has launched a new project which attempts to predict what will happen next by using crowdsourcing techniques.
According to Government Computer News (GCN), “The beta Aggregative Contingent Estimation system (ACES) website, called Forecasting Ace, is funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. It launched July 15.”
If you visit the Forecasting ACE website, you are immediately greeted with the enticing words, “Predict the FUTURE With Us.” You are also asked intriguing questions that draw you in (along with thoughtful answers provided via YouTube video):
- What is this project about?
- Why should I join?
- What is the purpose of this project?
- Why me?
The Forecasting Ace website offers several example forecasting problems by category, such as:
Other example forecasting questions fall under these categories:
- Science and Technology
What’s interesting about this website is how it draws you in. After seeing the examples, you are invited to “Try it Live.” I clicked on the box and was asked:
Which question(s) would you like to answer?
Government technology and business teams can use this technology in a variety of different ways, such as gauging public interest on various mobile applications before you spend the time and money to deploy the app. Asking someone, “Which of these three applications will do better in a year?” is similar to gauging which of the choices do they prefer now.
On a personal level, I find this concept to be very interesting and attractive. Not only is the underlying science helpful, the results have a TV game show feeling. (I find myself wanting to know what the “survey said” for each question.) Initially, I think many people in society will find this to be fun, although we’ll see if that “new” feel lasts. My gut tells me that this will become a trend for many aspects of life – from marketing products to predicting which movies will succeed at the box office.
More important, this new crowdsourcing method of scientific prediction may bring further proof to the age-old adage: “Perception is reality.”
What are your thoughts on using crowdsourcing to predict the future?
July 3, 2011 By Dan Lohrmann
“Where do you get your blog and/or article ideas?” I’m often asked that question. Or colleagues want to know: “What are the top ten websites you turn to in order to gauge innovative technology trends and new ideas that work?”
I typically provide a simple, safe answer, sounding like many lawyers: “It depends.” I've even promised a few friends to write an article with a more complete answer to these questions.
So I thought I’d dedicate a July 4th weekend article to sharing how I find innovative ideas that are working around the world. My hope is to provide government technology pros (like you) some techniques and examples to help improve your research on topics in Information, Communication & Technology (ICT) Infrastructures.
Yes, I write about the technology, security or other “stuff” that interests me at work and/or home. That often means something new is announced by Apple, Google, Microsoft or some hot new startup company. But more often than not, I find that buying a new "black box" or software is the easy part. Successfully implementing technology is much harder in a large government enterprise, especially when you add in the people and process issues – including required cultural change. As portrayed in the TV sitcom “The Office,” our interactions with others are often the most interesting and most complex aspect of our professional work.
Here’s my general outline:
1) Start with questions that need answering. What problems need to be solved by business areas? What topics are being discussed, or need to be discussed by your government teams? [Tip: Break out of the daily grind, if possible. Think bigger picture, unless you are focusing on a very specific answer to a particular infrastructure topic.]
2) Ask: What best-practices are being implemented in governments around the country? What common challenges, projects, solutions and/or approaches can be shared? These can come from the public or private sector. [Tip: Read on for a list of some “go-to” places both online and offline to help uncover these best-practices and intriguing stories.]
3) Bring it home. All infrastructure projects (like politics) are local, so try to apply the national trend or solution to your local situation. [Tip: Cross-check solutions from multiple sources and/or contacts around the country. If a vendor claims an incredible success with one state or local government, verify the results with a government contact and a second reference if possible.]
OK, so where do I go online and offline? As far as finding answers or general ideas, my search techniques have changed over the past few years. Here are a few of my favorite places to look:
Offline: I like to read overview and in depth reports from Gartner and Forrester. [Note: many of these reports aren’t free.] If your government doesn’t have subscriptions, you may want to consider a trial to see what you’re missing. You can also read some of their free material at their websites to get a feel for their available content. I like to learn from conferences and summits like SecureWorld Expo, NASCIO annual and mid-year conferences, regional Government Technology Magazine events, as well as national conferences like RSA for security. Of course, speaking at these events (even as a panelist) can reduce your expense.
Online: There are an endless number of free webinars and white papers available from vendor websites. I like to visit NASCIO’s Publications Website which provides great case studies and examples. You can also visit Centers of Excellence in Public Policy, like the material offered by Harvard and the Pew Charitable Trust. Beyond these, I like to check out these online news places. These websites are in no particular order. [Note: the news websites such as USA Today are recent additions to my list to gauge what the wider population is reading about.]
10) And of course: http://www.govtech.com/ (with associated sub-sites like PCIO)
As I’ve mentioned on other occasions, I also like to occasionally see what the United Kingdom websites and news organizations are saying about US technology, politics and trends. You can easily do this review at the BBC’s website or at The Mail Online’s Science & Tech Section. The London Times is also a great information source, but they now charge for much of their material.
Finally, you can always “google” the idea or issue to gauge what others are saying around a topic. I’ve found that topics like “Cloud Computing” and “Mobile Computing” are everywhere, so you need to be as specific as possible. You can also find conflicting answers. For example, a search for “Government smartphone policies” yields almost 26 million results.
I know that there are plenty of other places to go online to learn more about innovation. We live in an exciting and challenging time. I hope this quick overview of some of my top sources of data can help your research efforts. In a later post I will cover some of the bloggers I follow.
Any good technology websites that you’d like to share?
Building effective virtual government requires new ideas, innovative thinking and hard work. From federal stimulus projects to enterprise architectures to cloud computing, Dan Lohrmann will discuss what's hot and what's not in the world of technology infrastructure.