CISA warns of cyber criminals taking advantage of coronavirus concerns

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  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency gives a heads up about cyber threats linked to the coronavirus. CISA tells organizations to test their remote access capabilities and increase the capacity of those systems if necessary. It also advises that employees working remotely remain aware of how to reach out to IT personnel for further support. CISA warns that malicious actors could take advantage of COVID-19 concerns by conducting phishing attacks and disinformation campaigns. (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency)
  • Agencies can grant employees up to 30 days of advance sick leave if they’re infected with the coronavirus and run out of time off. Employees can get up to 13 days of advance leave if they’re caring for a sick family member. This is just some of the guidance provided by the Office of Personnel Management, which clarified who should get sick leave, and when during a potential coronavirus outbreak. Some agencies may ask for a doctor’s note if an employee becomes ill and needs extra sick leave. Others might waive a doctor’s note during an outbreak. (Federal News Network)
  • One of the largest federal employee health care providers will waive coronavirus testing costs for its participants. Blue Cross and Blue Shield says it will cover prior authorizations for diagnostic tests and other coronavirus services. The Blue Cross Federal Employee Program will also eliminate fees for a 14-day supply of prescription drugs. Other telehealth services associated with COVID-19 are covered too. The Office of Personnel Management has approved these changes.
  • The Postal Service prepares for coronavirus with an update to its pandemic flu plan. Interim measures include facility personnel tracking sick leave trends that may indicate a COVID-19 outbreak among postal employees. The plan states postal employees with coronavirus symptoms should remain off work until they recover. At least one postal employee has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The National Postal Mail Handlers Union says a Network Distribution Center employee in Seattle tested positive last month after extended travel overseas. (Federal News Network)
  • The Pentagon is loosening its rules on telework to help prepare for coronavirus. The Defense Department’s new policy says its okay for employees to telework, even when they’re taking care of a sick family member at home. The temporary rules are in effect through December. They’re an exception to DoD’s general policy, which says telework can’t serve as a replacement for child care. The changes are part of a broader package of guidance on coronavirus, which also says DoD managers need to act now to authorize as many employees for telework as possible in case federal workplaces need to be shut down. (Federal News Network)
  • Proud parents of the Navy’s newest recruits won’t be able to see them graduate from boot camp — at least not in person. Starting this week, the Navy says it will ban guests from its graduation ceremonies to limit the spread of coronavirus. The events will be livestreamed on the Navy’s website and social media platforms. (Navy)
  • The Defense Department changes its child care policy to prioritize single and dual active duty military families. A memo outlines a new ranking system for who will get coveted child care spots. If active duty families are unable to find care in 45 days or more they may take the spot of a DoD civilian employee’s child. Other categories in lower tiers and at risk of losing spots include active duty Coast Guard, DoD contractors and Gold Star spouses. (Federal News Network)
  • Defense contracts have been awarded to three teams to begin work designing a mobile nuclear reactor prototype. DoD hopes the reactors will generate power for remote operating bases. BWX Technologies, Westinghouse Government Services and X-Energy LLC were all awarded contracts. After a two year design process, one of the three companies may be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype. (Department of Defense)
  • A year later, but GSA’s 18F organization is expected to be in the black in 2020. The IT consulting and services organization known as 18F has been spending more than it brought in over the last five years. But in 2020, GSA officials told House lawmakers that 18F will break even for the first time ever. 18F estimated it would fully recover its cost, as required by law, by 2019, but the government shutdown caused the one-year delay. The organization has shrunk its staff to just under 100 people from a high of 225 and has improved how many of its staff work on projects versus are considered administrative costs. (Federal News Network)
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are taking major steps to remove the barriers to sharing electronic health records. CMS issued two final rules yesterday addressing some of these challenges. One rule creates the standards for application programming interface to support a patient’s access and control of their electronic health information. The second rewrites health IT system certification requirements to let doctors more easily communicate with patients.
  • NASA adds a new term and condition to the thousands of grants it makes each year. Recipients are now required to report findings or determinations of harassment, sexual or otherwise, to NASA. The final rule, effective today, covers acts committed by principal investigators, co-investigators and any other staff supported by a NASA grant. Grantees must also report when someone is placed on administrative leave or receives other disciplinary action having to do with harassment. The agency, responding to a comment, promises to maintain privacy.

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