FedTech Magazine - Technology Solutions That Drive Government https://fedtechmagazine.com/rss.xml en Federal Telework: How to Ensure Secure Videoconferencing https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/federal-telework-how-ensure-secure-videoconferencing-perfcon%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E <p>As federal agencies continue to operate with most of their workforces teleworking or working remotely, and with the possibility that they will need to return to doing so in the future, agencies have embraced videoconferencing for many tasks out of necessity.</p> <p>In March, the Office of Personnel Management <a href="https://www.chcoc.gov/content/boarding-processes-new-employees-during-covid-19-emergency" target="_blank">requested</a> that agencies temporarily use videoconferencing and e-signature tools to hire, administer the oath of office and train new employees.</p> <p>As agencies have ramped up their use of videoconferencing there have also been a raft of security and privacy concerns. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has offered tips on <a href="https://www.nist.gov/blogs/cybersecurity-insights/preventing-eavesdropping-and-protecting-privacy-virtual-meetings" target="_blank">how agencies can secure videoconferencing platforms for meetings</a>. Those include limiting the reuse of access codes; using one-time PINs for sensitive meetings; not allowing the meeting to begin until the host joins; using a dashboard to monitor attendees; avoiding recording the meeting unless it is necessary; and disabling features such as chat and file sharing unless they are needed. </p> <p>Many agencies that have moved to <a href="https://www.cdwg.com/content/cdwg/en/brand/microsoft/office365.html" target="_blank">Microsoft’s Office 365</a> platform have been using <a href="https://www.cdwg.com/content/cdwg/en/brand/microsoft/microsoft-teams.html" target="_blank">Microsoft Teams</a> for secure videoconferencing. “In 2019, NASA deployed the full suite of tools offered by Microsoft Office 365, which includes the Teams communication and collaboration platform,” former NASA CIO Renee Wynn <a href="https://federalnewsnetwork.com/cybersecurity/2020/04/for-some-cios-the-decision-to-limit-the-use-of-zoom-isnt-a-big-deal/" target="_blank">tells Federal News Network</a>. “One of the features of Teams is secure video capability. Teams meetings allow both NASA and our external partners to collaborate in a way that adheres to federal IT security requirements.”</p> Phil Goldstein https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/federal-telework-how-ensure-secure-videoconferencing-perfcon%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E VA Video Telehealth Program Keeps Up with Rapidly Expanding Demand https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/va-video-telehealth-program-keeps-rapidly-expanding-demand%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E <p>When the Veterans Health Administration began its video telehealth program 20 years ago, the goal was to make it simpler for the average vet — who lives more than 90 minutes from the nearest healthcare facility — to get medical treatment.</p> <p>Now hundreds of thousands of veterans, no matter where they live, are taking advantage of the <a href="https://mobile.va.gov/app/va-video-connect" target="_blank">VA Video Connect </a>program, many inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and warnings to avoid close contact with others.</p> <p>In 2019, the year the program was featured in a <a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/media/video/va-provides-health-care-smartphones" target="_blank"><em>FedTech</em> “Feds in the Field” video</a>, 1.3 million clinical visits were provided to more than 491,000 veterans via video. As of mid-May 2020, more than 1.6 million clinical visits have been provided to more than 672,000 veterans.</p> <p>“We’d expected a steady rise,” says Dr. Kevin Galpin, executive director of VHA’s telehealth services. “But not this year — over the next two years.”</p> <script type="text/javascript" src="//sc.liveclicker.net/service/getEmbed?client_id=1526&amp;widget_id=1882896223&amp;width=640&amp;height=360"></script><p><span style="font-size: 11px;">The Department of Veterans Affairs' video telehealth program has expanded to include appointments conducted over mobile devices.</span></p> <h2 id="toc_0">VA Meets Demand via Additional Servers and Cloud</h2> <p>The VA Video Connect program, which began in 2017, allows patients to see their doctors from a distance, using their own computers, tablets or smartphones from any location rather than having to travel to a special telehealth center.</p> <p>Once a patient makes an appointment, VA sends an email with an encrypted link that takes the patient behind the VA firewall to talk to a medical professional. </p> <p>The sudden influx of patients once the pandemic took hold caused a few hiccups, Galpin says. For instance, the appointment and scheduling system was designed to work in real time: The veteran’s request would go to a on-premises server that would then create the private video room.</p> <p>As the number of visits in 2020 rose from 41,000 in February to about 137,000 in March and kept ballooning, one thing was clear: “One server was not enough,” Galpin notes. “We had to re-engineer.”</p> <p>The agency added new nodes and servers to the on-premises environment, and also created a cloud-based server for when those filled, he says. The scheduling system was also adapted so that it could batch visit requests and create the video rooms overnight rather than immediately.</p> Elizabeth Neus https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/va-video-telehealth-program-keeps-rapidly-expanding-demand%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E How Agencies Can Appeal to IT Workers More Than the Corporate Sector https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/how-agencies-can-appeal-it-workers-more-corporate-sector%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E <p>Federal government agencies have a tech talent conundrum. Although the government offers technologists the chance to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues, it hasn’t yet figured out how to compete successfully with the private sector. To lure top tech talent, government needs a new playbook.</p> <p>A big part of the problem is the highly competitive labor market. There are currently far more tech jobs open than there are traditional candidates to fill them, even with the coronavirus pandemic raging on. CompTIA, an IT trade group, puts the number of unfilled tech jobs at <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2019/06/18/there-are-70000-open-tech-jobs-here-is-how-firms-are-hiring-for-them.html" target="_blank">above 700,000</a>. And according to <a href="https://learning.linkedin.com/blog/top-skills/the-skills-companies-need-most-in-2019--and-how-to-learn-them" target="_blank">2019 data from LinkedIn</a>, specialized tech skills such as analytical reasoning and cloud computing are the most in demand.</p> <p>Salary also plays a role in the government’s tech talent shortage. <a href="https://www.vox.com/2018/4/30/17301264/how-much-twitter-google-amazon-highest-paying-salary-tech" target="_blank">Median salaries at big tech firms</a> are attractive. Twitter employees make an average annual salary of $161,860; Facebook workers make around $240,000. A technologist working for the U.S. government makes about <a href="https://www.indeed.com/cmp/U.S.-Government/salaries/Information-Technology-Specialist" target="_blank">$110,000 each year.</a> That’s a significant pay gap.</p> <p>Finally, the government has structural barriers that make it difficult to compete with nimble private tech firms when it comes to hiring. For instance, the government takes more than <a href="https://federalnewsnetwork.com/hiring-retention/2018/03/it-took-agencies-an-average-of-106-days-to-hire-new-employees-in-2017/" target="_blank">100 days on average</a> to hire and is often restricted by a rigid set of hiring credentials. This causes the government to miss out on top talent, as well as great candidates who may not tick every box.</p> <p><a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2020/05/cyber-reskilling-academy-attracts-new-federal-security-pros" target="_blank"><em><strong>READ MORE: </strong>Discover how the Cyber Reskilling Academy is helping create new federal IT security pros. </em></a></p> <h2 id="toc_0">Agencies Need More Creative Recruitment Strategies</h2> <p>To compete with private firms, the federal government needs to deploy creative recruitment strategies that help sell candidates on the more subtle benefits and opportunities of working for the public sector.</p> <p>Instead, the government largely relies upon traditional tactics: attending job fairs, posting job positions online and using recruiters to reach out to candidates. The result is that candidates easily overlook government jobs for more cushy, flashy <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/perks-that-silicon-valley-workers-can-take-advantage-of-2019-9" target="_blank">Silicon Valley-style gigs</a>, complete with state-of-the-art offices, free catered lunches and seemingly endless perks.</p> <p>That said, the government does have some interesting short-term hiring strategies that have begun to transform its approach to tech recruitment. </p> <p>The <a href="https://presidentialinnovationfellows.gov/" target="_blank">Presidential Innovation Fellows</a> program, for example, offers high-level tech employees a short-term stint to work on a particular problem. It’s a win-win: The government gets help on a specific issue, and the technologists get a low-risk opportunity to get their feet wet in public sector work. Even better, it works: <a href="https://www.fedscoop.com/presidential-innovation-fellows-pifs-why-they-stay/" target="_blank">More than a third</a> of PIFs end up sticking around for the long term.</p> <p><a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2020/01/which-it-skills-are-most-demand-federal-it" target="_blank"><em><strong>DISCOVER:</strong> Which IT skills are most sought after in the federal government? </em></a></p> <h2 id="toc_1">A New Way Forward on Federal IT Recruitment</h2> <p>The U.S. government needs to fix its tech talent problem. Again, the solution hinges on creative thinking; the private sector will always win out when it comes to salary and perks, but the government has something valuable to offer candidates too. Here are three steps that will point the U.S. government in the right direction.</p> <ol><li> <p><strong>Recruit talent in unconventional ways. </strong>By limiting its recruitment activities to traditional pools of talent, the federal government is missing out on some great candidates. A huge segment of tech talent is self-taught or has gone through coding school. Find these folks and bring them into the fold.</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Shift the message.</strong> Recruiting for tech talent should focus on selling the mission and the widespread impact of the work to be done, not on details such as salary or vacation days. Today’s <a href="https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/15050-how-to-work-with-generation-z.html" target="_blank">young workforce yearns to make a difference</a>, and many of those workers believe technology is the pathway to doing so. Play up how government work will let these workers do just that. PIFs who have decided to continue their careers with the government often say it’s the meaningful mission and the chance to be involved in public service that compels them to stick around.</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Look for upskilling opportunities in the existing talent pool. </strong>Onboarding a new employee is a costly and lengthy process, so government agencies should consider taking a closer look at their existing employees and identifying what skills are needed to deepen their skill sets. LaunchCode, for example, <a href="https://trajectorymagazine.com/exploring-old-problems-in-new-ways/" target="_blank">works with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency</a> to train its internal development team on specialized skills in geospatial intelligence.</p> </li> </ol><p>The federal government has a tough time recruiting tech talent, but it doesn’t have to remain that way. While the private sector’s salaries and perks will probably always be unbeatable, the government offers something completely different: a chance to change the world. Freshened recruitment tactics will help lure candidates who want to be part of something bigger.</p> Daniel Fogarty https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/how-agencies-can-appeal-it-workers-more-corporate-sector%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E How to Enhance Mobile Endpoint Security as Users Telework https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/how-enhance-mobile-endpoint-security-users-telework%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E <p>Federal agencies have found moving to <a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2020/05/prepare-technology-advance-virtual-meeting" target="_blank">virtual meetings</a> and other telework arrangements to be valuable, and agencies have also <a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2020/04/va-expands-telehealth-services-new-device-purchases" target="_blank">deployed tens of thousands of new mobile devices</a> to help users. That increased device footprint also means there is now an increased attack surface for malicious actors. </p> <p>Agencies’ mobile devices are often not secured to the same degree as desktops and laptops, experts say. With more users teleworking, those smartphones and tablets represent a heightened risk for everything from phishing attacks to malware and data theft. </p> <p>To secure those endpoints, IT leaders need to lean on r<a href="https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/SpecialPublications/NIST.SP.800-124r2-draft.pdf" target="_blank">ecently updated guidelines from the National Institute of Standards and Technology</a> on mobile device security and ensure that they are using true security tools and not simply <a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2019/03/defense-department-adopts-new-mobile-device-management-capabilities">mobile device management solutions</a>. </p> <p>“Unfortunately, right now, we’re seeing a big surge and all types of attacks,” David Wiseman, <a href="https://www.cdwg.com/search/?b=rmm&amp;enkwrd=BlackBerry" target="_blank">BlackBerry</a>’s vice president of secure communications, tells Federal News Network. “And these are typically by pretty sophisticated entities that have put systems in place and now they really started to ramp them up.” Wiseman notes that users on home Wi-Fi networks are easier to target, and teleworking means that there are fewer IT staff members at headquarters to monitor mobile devices. </p> Phil Goldstein https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/how-enhance-mobile-endpoint-security-users-telework%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E How Securing the Tactical Edge Can Help Operators in the Field https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/how-securing-tactical-edge-can-help-operators-field%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E <p>The Internet of Things has <a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2019/04/benefits-edge-computing-feds" target="_blank">transformed the tactical edge</a>. Just as a seemingly endless list of consumer technologies, from thermostats to light bulbs, have been equipped with sensors and connected to the internet, so have many military technologies, from drones to wearable devices. </p> <p>At the same time, the federal government mandated a “cloud-first” strategy in 2017, only <a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2020/04/lucky-or-smart-research-shows-cloud-smart-accelerating-adoption">recently evolving it to “cloud-smart” instead</a>. For most, “the cloud” has referred to a centralized public cloud.</p> <p>An emphasis on centralized cloud computing and an explosion of distributed devices have combined to create a substantial stream of data that is collected by war fighters in the field, sent to a stateside cloud for processing, then pushed back to the edge. For the military especially, this can be both inefficient and dangerous. A seemingly small delay in processing can have a huge impact on the battlefield.</p> <p>Enter <a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2020/02/edge-computing-brings-cloud-data">edge computing</a>. In the simplest terms, edge computing means that computing takes place at or near the actual data source — on the mobile, distributed devices proliferating at the edge. Edge computing offers low-latency data processing and real-time insights —benefits that will increase in importance as the number of edge devices continues to balloon. Security, though, is another consideration that cannot be overlooked; organizations must ensure their architecture can sufficiently support the tactical edge.</p> George Kamis https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/how-securing-tactical-edge-can-help-operators-field%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E Review: MooreCo Projector Board Brings Remote Meetings to Life https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/review-mooreco-projector-board-brings-remote-meetings-life%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E <p>Most federal agencies have dedicated conference or meeting rooms for face-to-face business. Normally, these specialized spaces include objects and devices designed to foster collaboration, such as projectors, videoconferencing systems, cameras, speakerphones and whiteboards. </p> <p>Setting up a good conference room is a science that has been perfected and enhanced over many years. But what about employees working from home or from remote locations? </p> <p>With an <a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2020/05/how-make-federal-government-telework-success-perfcon">increased emphasis on teleworking,</a> there is a need to bring collaborative technologies out of federal buildings and into home offices. Start the list with the basics, including a solid projection surface.</p> <p><a href="https://www.cdwg.com/search/monitors-projectors/?key=mooreco&amp;w=d" target="_blank">The MooreCo line of interactive projector boards</a> come in a variety of sizes, with the one we tested stretching 106 inches diagonally in a widescreen orientation. They are easy to handle and can be mounted on a wall or placed on a rolling cart with the appropriate brackets. </p> John Breeden II https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/review-mooreco-projector-board-brings-remote-meetings-life%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E The Value of Managed Endpoint Services https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/resources/white-paper/value-managed-endpoint-services%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E <p>In nearly every industry, it’s almost impossible to imagine work getting done today without equipping employees with devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.</p> <p>As these end-user devices have grown more numerous (and more powerful), organizations and their employees have come to rely on them for virtually all aspects of their business. Previously analog workflows are now faster and more efficient, and employees can work from anywhere at any time, completing once-cumbersome tasks with the help of collaboration software and business apps that have drastically improved productivity.</p> <p>As enterprise device environments have grown, however, inefficiencies have inevitably crept in. Especially for large organizations, these inefficiencies can add up, with untold dollars being spent on underused devices and countless hours dedicated to unwieldy management processes. By optimizing their device environments, organizations can save money, enhance productivity and improve the end-user experience.</p> <p>This is easier said than done. But a comprehensive lifecycle management engagement such as Managed Endpoint Anywhere can simplify device provisioning and management, allowing employees and IT staff to get back to business.</p> <p><strong>Learn more by downloading our white paper: "The Value of Managed Endpoint Services"</strong></p> https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/resources/white-paper/value-managed-endpoint-services%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E How to Create a Federal Telework-Ready Environment for the Future https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/how-create-federal-telework-ready-environment-future%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E <p>More federal agencies have implemented <a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2020/04/how-protect-your-agencys-networks-and-users-during-telework" target="_blank">work-from-home policies than ever before</a>, but some agencies were more prepared than others for the rapid shift and the associated security concerns. </p> <p>According to the <a target="_blank">Office of Personnel Management’s fiscal year 2018 report</a>, only 42 percent of federal employees were eligible to telework, with a fraction of those choosing to participate. </p> <p>Recent and ongoing <a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2020/05/technology-modernization-fund-provides-agencies-cash-improve-it">IT modernization efforts</a> have been crucial to the success agencies have found when transitioning to widespread telework. </p> <p>Some federal agencies have been working to modernize systems for years. The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, has been ramping up telework readiness, replacing 95 percent of desktops with laptops. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently completed a complete software refresh, enabling cloud-based collaboration tools that have paved the way for a seamless transition to remote work. </p> Gary Newgaard https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/how-create-federal-telework-ready-environment-future%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E Secure a Networked Printer Before It Can Be Breached https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/secure-networked-printer-it-can-be-breached%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E <p>Networked printers are a largely unnoticed weakness in agency cybersecurity — they were part of the notoriously insecure Internet of Things even before the term was in widespread use.</p> <p>These devices record sensitive information to print and typically keep it on internal storage for extended periods of time. As many networked printers offer additional capabilities, such as scanning or copying paper documents and transferring that information to removable media, network shares and emails, the risks become even greater. </p> <p>Attackers who compromise a networked printer could insert themselves into everything the printer does, viewing its inputs and outputs, then stealing, destroying or altering them. Attackers may also target printers because printer security is often ignored, so they can avoid detection by using the printer as a jumping-off point to compromise other devices in the agency. </p> <p>Remote attacks — connecting to the printer from the internet — are more than possible, as are attacks through physical access. Those range from the basic, such as stealing printouts or making copies of them, to the more technical, including connecting a flash drive containing malware to the printer and infecting the printer to access all the old print jobs stored there.</p> <p>These best practices can be implemented by any agency to improve the security of its networked printers. While these practices are generally applicable, supported security features do vary among printer manufacturers and models. Be sure to consult the documentation for each printer or ask the manufacturer for more information on the printer’s security risks and controls.</p> Karen Scarfone https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/secure-networked-printer-it-can-be-breached%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E GSA, Labor EEOC Lay the Foundation for Major Tech Upgrades https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/gsa-labor-eeoc-lay-foundation-major-tech-upgrades%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E <p>The General Services Administration, Labor Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are at the forefront of modernizing technology systems across the government. </p> <p>The 2018 Modernizing Government Technology Act <a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2017/12/how-mgt-act-will-spur-agencies-it-investments-2018-and-beyond">established</a> a Technology Modernization Fund to fund agency requests for IT modernization projects. GSA, Labor and EEOC are among the recipients of funds from the TMF and are pushing ahead with their proposed upgrades, though there have been some delays. </p> <p><a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2019/04/how-are-agencies-modernizing-tech-their-tmf-funds">As <em>FedTech</em> reports</a>, the TMF “essentially serves as a loan fund, with the expectation that the improvements will save money that agencies can use to pay back the government over a designated period of time. It allows agencies to replace and update old legacy systems that are expensive to maintain but require significant investment to improve.”</p> <p>“The projects are on track, we actually got some of our first money back, which is a great thing,” Federal CIO Suzette Kent <a href="https://federalnewsnetwork.com/it-modernization/2019/10/eeoc-usda-loaned-12-million-to-move-off-paper-based-processes/" target="_blank">tells Federal News Network in an interview last fall</a>. “Each of them has a spend plan. That is something that we share with Congress. So you know when money goes out and when we expect money to come back in and what that looks like.”</p> <p><a href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2020/05/technology-modernization-fund-provides-agencies-cash-improve-it" target="_blank"><em><strong>READ MORE: </strong>See how agencies are using TMF funding to modernize. </em></a></p> <h2 id="toc_0">GSA Modernizes Payroll System and Apps</h2> <p>In February 2019, the TMF board awarded the GSA $20.7 million to accelerate development of its modernized payroll shared service, NewPay.</p> <p>As <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/710/703211.pdf" target="_blank">a December Government Accountability office report</a> describes, the project is “intended to modernize the agency’s payroll system and replace it with a cloud-based Software as a Service solution. This is expected to lay the foundation for modernizing federal legacy payroll systems to a cloud-based solution for the federal government by September 2024.”</p> <p>NewPay is expected to cover 21,000 users at the GSA and serve as the basis for upgrading the payroll systems for 2.1 million federal civilian employees, the GAO notes. Currently, four federal agencies (the departments of Agriculture, Defense and the Interior, plus GSA) serve as payroll providers for federal civilian employees. NewPay is also expected to encompass time and attendance solutions, which GSA expects to put in place in later project phases. </p> <p>Project officials reported to the GAO that they originally planned to complete the migration to NewPay and shut down GSA’s legacy systems by 2023 and consolidate all other government legacy provider payroll operations into NewPay. </p> <p>However, “officials reported that the strategy for transitioning other legacy payroll providers to NewPay was revised in mid-summer 2019,” the GAO notes. </p> Phil Goldstein https://fedtechmagazine.com/%3Ca%20href%3D%22/article/2020/05/gsa-labor-eeoc-lay-foundation-major-tech-upgrades%22%20hreflang%3D%22en%22%3Eview%3C/a%3E