Tech News for January 26

Rauner creates new Department of Innovation and Technology

Gov. Bruce Rauner Monday moved to consolidate all of the state’s far-flung information technology functions into a new Cabinet agency that he said will save money and improve operations. Rauner signed an executive order creating the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology to be led by his chief information officer Hardik Bhatt. “We are in the Stone Age on our software and our systems,” Rauner said at a news conference at the Department of Corrections headquarters in Springfield. “It is critically important that we upgrade our systems. We spend the third most of any state on (information technology). Despite all of that spending, we’re one of the lowest ranked states for the quality of our digital systems.”

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Government background checks still don’t require review of social media profiles

The Obama administration has announced a new set of rules for government background checks — but still doesn’t require a review of applicants’ social media profiles, leaving the government well behind the private sector in vetting high-risk employees. After a series of high-profile bungles, the administration on Friday announced that it was changing the name of the background check investigations agency and revamping the office to which it reports. Key among those changes is giving the Defense Department, which has the biggest need for security clearances and makes up the majority of background checks, a leading role in setting up and running the National Background Investigations Bureau.

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In Wildly Overbroad New Investigation, California Telephone Regulators Gasp For Relevance

California’s scandal-plagued Public Utilities Commission is at it again. Just before Thanksgiving, the agency surprised everyone by launching a comprehensive investigation into the state of competition in the increasingly obsolete analog telephone network. The new proceeding re-opens a ten-year old decision that largely deregulated the state’s four incumbent local telephone companies. That decision seemed uncontroversial even at the time. The incumbents had long been required to make their networks available to competitors at regulated prices, leading to an explosion in new local phone companies. Today, the agency’s data base includes over 400 providers.

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California Plans to Crackdown on Encrypted Phones

Privacy in the digital era is a buzzing phrase. While California introduced a bill touting the life-saving potential of decrypted smartphones in the fight against human trafficking, world leaders debated Privacy and Secrecy in the Digital Age during the World Economic Forum taking place in Davos. From one end to the other, governments are juggling two difficult issues. Protecting citizens while respecting consumer privacy is the ideal scenario. Yet, it looks like it’s impossible to achieve. A rapid surge in terrorist attacks in the past year has put consumer privacy and encrypted smartphones under pressure once more. Paris, France and Riverside, California pinpoint the extreme advantage terrorists gain by making use of the same online communication tools we’re all gleefully using.

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VMware Reportedly Laying Off 5 Percent of Its Workforce

Virtualization giant VMware is getting ready to announce layoffs even as Dell and EMC, which owns 80 percent of VMware, jump through hoops to make their $67 billion merger a reality. Fortune is reporting VMware will cut up to 900 employees, which is about 5 percent of its global workforce, this week. VMware could not immediately be reached for comment, but some are speculating the layoffs may be related to the impending merger. EMC plans to shave $850 million from its budget by cutting an unstated number of jobs, according to a regulatory filing at the end of last year. Most of the job cuts should be completed by the end of the first quarter and wrapped up by the end of the year. Some industry watchers believe the VMware cuts are a natural progression.

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Barracuda Launches Security Suite for Office 365

If you’re worried about how secure your Microsoft Office 365 deployment is,Barracuda Networks(CUDA) might have a solution for you. The network security provider recently announced the launch of Barracuda Essentials, a cloud services suite for Office 365 that contains three of the company’s enterprise security solutions. While Office 365 already comes equipped with its own assortment of security solutions to protect enterprise assets, Barracuda essentials acts as an add-on product, and is designed to be attractive to those who are particularly security-conscious, according to the company. The suite includes Barracuda Email Security Service, Barracuda Cloud Archiving Service and Barracuda Cloud Backup.

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Ben Carson Wants to Create New Federal Agency for Cyber Security

Presidential hopeful Ben Carson believes the only way to keep the U.S. safe from major hacking attacks and data breaches is to create a new federal government agency. The retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential nominee said on Monday that he would establish a National Cyber Security Administration that would act as a central hub for all of the government’s cyber security programs and initiatives. Carson, who generally opposes new government spending and advocates for shrinking down the government, did not say how big the NCSA would be or how much it cost. But he stressed that it would not be “a new federal bureaucracy.”

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UMass recieves $4.2 million federal grant to support students studying Cybersecurity

The University of Massachusetts has received a $4.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to bring a CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program to the campus, the first public university in New England to receive such an award, according to a press release. The program will support and expand several of the university’s advanced programs that educate and train Cybersecurity researchers and professionals, according the grant.

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NIST Kicks Off Wireless Infusion Pump Cybersecurity Project

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is launching a project to improve the cybersecurity of wireless infusion pumps. To do so, NIST’s National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) is looking for vendors to provide it with the components and technical expertise required to simulate the hospital environment in which infusion pumps operate. In a notice published in the Federal Register Monday, NIST said the goal of the project is to help health providers secure wireless infusion pumps on an enterprise network.

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Revitalizing FedRAMP: Key To Improving Federal Adoption Of Cloud Computing Services

Although the federal government stands to save millions of dollars by moving services and applications to the cloud, the transition to cloud computing has been rocky and agencies remain reliant on outdated legacy systems, according to a recent report. Tony Scott, the Federal Chief Information Officer, says the federal government today spends 80 percent of its $80 billion IT budget to maintain outdated, legacy, duplicative systems. And until the process for acquiring cloud computing services— the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP)—receives an overhaul, federal agencies will continue to miss out on the benefits of cloud computing.

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Six SBIR-STTR Proposals Selected for Award for SSL Technology

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science has selected for award six Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)-Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) proposals targeting advances in solid-state lighting (SSL) technology.

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Government Technology Magazine Names BlueLine Grid, the Nation’s Public Safety and Security Collaboration Platform, to GovTech 100

Government Technology magazine has selected BlueLine Grid as part of the GovTech100, an annual index of companies that are delivering innovative technology solutions for state, local and federal government clients. The GovTech100 includes the leading 100 U.S. companies focused on government as a customer that have developed innovative offerings to improve government or have created new models for delivering services. “We’ve been transforming the way public safety agencies communicate internally, with each other, and with their private sector partners,” BlueLine Grid CEO Dave Riker said. “We appreciate the recognition from the industry experts at Government Technology.”

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Tom Cullerton: Technology upgrades are key to government efficiency

To streamline the state’s information technology functions the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), a new state agency, was created today. “To increase government efficiency we need to make major investments in our state’s technology systems,” State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) said. “Today’s technologies provide an excellent opportunity to increase government efficiency, eliminate redundancies, provide cost-savings to taxpayers, and simplify residents’ interactions with government.” DoIT will spearhead Illinois’ efforts to modernization. All technology decisions will be centralized and put under the umbrella of this new agency. Cullerton said Illinois has the talent and innovation to create a world-class government technology model.

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The government’s top scientists built these amazing technologies that we still use today

Many of the staples of modern technology we take for granted have roots in the military’s research and development arm. Created after the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) makes investments and conducts research into game-changing technologies with national security implications. Just this week, the agency announced planned funding for military cyborgs. While the agency’s breakthroughs on cyborgs or stealth technology may not have obvious civilian applications, much of DARPA’s past research does.

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Top Cybersecurity Firm in U.S. Named

Colorado Springs added more ammunition to its efforts to lay claim as a national cybersecurity hub when root9B was ranked this month as the world’s top provider of cybersecurity services. Cybersecurity Ventures, a New York-based online publication, put the company at the top its first-quarter list of the world’s top 500 leading companies that provide such services, describing root9B as bringing “a rare combination of extensive real-world cyber defense experience, senior level cyber experts with backgrounds protecting U.S. federal agencies and commercial enterprises, deep subject matter expertise in most cybersecurity disciplines.”

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California State Workers Get Green Light to Use Uber and Airbnb

California state workers who want to use transportation and lodging networks — known in some circles as the “sharing economy” — can now do so for official government business under the state’s travel policy, according to the Department of General Services. In recent memos, the California Department of Human Resources outlines how the state is enacting the provisions of AB 229, legislation signed last year prohibiting the state from disallowing use online services such as Uber, Lyft or Airbnb. The rule is effective through 2018.

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DMV Hosting Two Public Workshops on Draft Autonomous Vehicle Regulations

At two upcoming public workshops, the auto industry, interest groups, consumers and other stakeholders will have an opportunity to weigh in on California’s proposed regulations for deploying autonomous vehicles. FutureStructure reported last month that the draft regulations made public last month would require a licensed driver who has obtained a certificate to drive an AV be sitting behind the wheel and capable of taking over driving if necessary. By extension of that rule, the department won’t allow the public use of any cars that are capable of driving themselves without a human behind the controls.

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LA Unified Inches Toward Districtwide Tech Upgrades, Wireless Access

The Los Angeles Unified School District is modernizing its technology to the tune of $788 million, and some schools have launched pilots of new infrastructure that reduces costs. Eleven elementary schools are testing out technologies that connect the public address system, telephones, audio visual equipment, intercommunication and notification services to the tech devices, using a single “pipe” that lowers costs to the district, according to LA School Report, which noted that the approach is similar to how most homes today receive phone, TV and Internet access.

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