New Federal Mobile IT Strategy Must Address Security

As the White House rolls out an agenda to open and optimize government data for mobile devices and accelerate use of smartphones and tablets across departments and agencies, security expert warns that federal CIOs must address an array of vulnerabilities.

By Kenneth Corbin
Tue, May 29, 2012

CIO — WASHINGTON -- As the Obama administration moves to implement a broad-ranging mobile computing initiative throughout the government, agency CIOs need to integrate forward-looking policies to ensure that mobile devices and the data and applications that reside on them are insulated from both internal and external threats from the outset, according to a security expert.

"It's a really important aspect, and it needs to be done early on. It needs to be done in a way when you're developing your policies, [they] are going to drive the security requirements," Tony DeLaGrange, senior security consultant with Secure Ideas, said at a conference here following the release of the White House's Digital Government Strategy. "Let's make sure that only the applications I want on there are on the device."

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The new White House plan tasks agencies with converting their troves of data into formats that are readily accessible to the public, and remaking the central online hub for government information, Data.gov, as a "data and API catalog" that pulls data from agency sites. By synching individual government sites with the central federal repository, that effort will aim to ensure that there is "no wrong door for accessing government data," federal CIO Steven VanRoekel wrote in a blog post announcing the new initiative.

"At its core, the strategy takes a coordinated, information- and customer-centric approach to changing how the government works and delivers services to the American people," VanRoekel said. "Designing for openness from the start -- making open data the default for government IT systems and embracing the use of web APIs -- enables us to more easily deliver information and services through multiple channels, including mobile, and engage the public and America's entrepreneurs as partners in building a better government."

Additionally, the Digital Government Strategy directs agency CIOs to optimize their public-facing data for a new crop of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. That includes setting a new default standard of open data and Web APIs for government information.

"Over the next 12 months, you will start to see an important shift across the federal government," VanRoekel said. "Agencies will increasingly open up their valuable data to the public and set up developer pages to give external developers tools to build new services."

The blueprint also calls for the formation of a new centralized advisory group to eliminate information silos between agencies and preside over the "shift to a shared-platform culture." A recent report on the use of Web technology across the federal government found 150 distinct implementations of 42 separate systems to create and publish Web content, distributed through the use of some 250 hosting providers.

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