‘Emergency directive’ from DHS calls for agencies to step up cyber measures

In today's Federal Newscast, the Homeland Security Department says a series of incidents have tampered with agencies domain name systems (DNS) on their websites...

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  • Agencies are facing a new cyber attack, tampering with their websites to redirect traffic to a potentially dangerous website. This has led DHS and OMB to issue an “emergency” directive. Agencies are to improve the security of their domain name systems by changing the passwords and implementing multi-factor authentication in the next 10 days. DHS and OMB said this threat, which some agencies already have faced, poses significant and imminent risks to agency information and information systems. (Department of Homeland Security)
  • The government shutdown is undermining national security and harming FBI agents, according to a new report from the FBI Agents Association. The report features stories on how the shutdown is hurting the FBI’s work. For example, lack of pay damages agents’ finances, endangering security clearances and some operations have been put on hold. The report also details operations and investigations that have been put on hold due to lack of funding, and raises recruitment concerns. (FBI Agents Association)
  • Now the federal court system expects to sustain normal operations, under the shutdown, through the end of January. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts previously estimated it would run out of money on Jan. 25. Before that, it said it would run out of money on Jan. 18. This marks the second time its had to stretch non-appropriated funds. (The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts)
  • Coast Guard military retirees could miss their annuities in February if the partial government shutdown continues through January. The Coast Guard said it won’t be able to pay its retirees without a new appropriations bill, continuing resolution or other spending measure. It uses a retired pay appropriation to make annuitant payments. The Coast Guard said it already spent all funds in that account back in January. Other military services and civilian agencies fund retiree payments through a trust fund, not appropriations. (U.S. Coast Guard)
  • The Agriculture Department plans to reopen all Farm Service Agency offices as the partial government shutdown continues. Nearly 10,000 agency employees will go back to work without pay, starting Thursday. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said the agency aims to provide as many services as possible during the shutdown. USDA had previously staffed about half its FSA offices with 2,500 employees, on a short-term basis. (Federal News Network)
  • Second shutdown furlough notices are going out to non-excepted employees. The first ones expired Jan. 21. The Office of Personnel Management told agencies to send out new notices when the government shutdown went beyond 30 days. Some agencies are using new furlough notices to clarify common shutdown-questions. The Agriculture Department told employees it waived the requirement to get permission for additional outside employment during the furlough. (Federal News Network)
  • The concept of automatic continuing resolutions has another supporter in Congress. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced the Stop STUPIDITY Act. The bill would fund agencies at the previous year’s spending levels if Congress can’t reach a permanent budget deal by the fiscal year deadline. Other lawmakers have introduced similar bills before. Warner’s bill though, would fund all federal agencies but the legislative branch and the Executive Office of the President. Warner said that provision would force Congress and the White House to negotiate over permanent spending measures. (Sen. Mark Warner)
  • Agency personnel people could do a lot to encourage public service careers. The National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, after a year of meetings and listening sessions, released an interim report on what commissioners are thinking. Among the ideas: More information sharing among agencies and with outside organizations to get the word out on federal openings. And improving tools for recruiting and hiring interns and fellows, and transitioning them to permanent jobs. They asked Congress to consider adding women to draft registration.
  • Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats released a strategic roadmap for the intelligence community to follow in 2019. The National Intelligence Strategy is focused on strengthening foreign and domestic partnerships, and ensuring greater transparency to the public. The strategy also looked at ways to leverage emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and automation. (Office of the Director of National Intelligence)
  • New methods from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency include ways to meet unexpected and unknown challenges. The announcement said it wants to find out how to get the most out of its data. NGA also wants to improve its geospatial awareness and understand insights across air, sea, space, land and cyber. (FedBizOpps)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department wants to make 20 to 30 mobile web applications more responsive to users by moving them into a new cloud platform. VA hired Booz Allen Hamilton under a five-year, $9.8 million contract. VA is asking Booz Allen to operate the cloud services Mobile Application Cloud Migration program, which will be comprised of three environments: Development, staging and production. The agency wants the new mobile app cloud migration platform eventually to achieve a continuous integration and continuous deployment approach to ensure these services are valuable to veterans. (FedBizOpps)
  • The Air Force said it’s finished the first phase of a massive cloud computing transition. Under the Cloud Hosted Enterprise Services (CHES) program, the Air Force will move most of its email users to a commercially-hosted cloud platform, based on Microsoft’s Office 365. Officials said Phase 1 is now complete, and 550,000 airmen and civilians are now using the service. The service said the huge migration stressed Air Force and DoD systems, but it uncovered several cyber vulnerabilities along the way. The Defense Department has already indicated it hopes to use the Air Force project as a “pathfinder” to migrate the rest of the military to enterprise cloud services. (Air Force)

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