The Tech Loop: Fast & Furiously Data-Driven

The Tech Loop is a weekly compilation of the latest happenings in government technology gathered from around the web. This week’s topics include cybersecurity, big data & analytics, and cloud.


Sound the alarm! Or “pound the alarm,” as Nicki Minaj would say. In an executive order signed this week, President Obama declared foreign cyberthreats a national emergency. The order authorized the levying of targeted sanctions against individuals or groups involved in malicious cyber activities aimed at the U.S. Four categories of cyber behavior could trigger sanctions under the executive order, according to a White House summary:

  • “Harming or significantly compromising” critical infrastructure services.
  • “Significantly disrupting” a computer network via, for example, a distributed denial-of-service attack.
  • “Causing a significant misappropriation of funds or economic resources” by, for example, stealing credit card information or trade secrets.
  • Receiving or using such trade secrets for commercial gain.

White House cyber czar, Michael Daniel, spoke about the executive order this week, and also outlined the importance of collaboration and information sharing between sectors and among different levels of government. Private companies are responsible for their own network defense but government’s job is to help them protect themselves. Robert Knake of CFR called this “The Home Depot Model: You can do it; we can help!”

But that doesn’t mean collaboration and information sharing is easy. Cultural and technical challenges can be significant barriers.

And we can’t forget to mention this – it was recently discovered that GitHub was hit by an advanced DDoS attack. The hackers employed “sophisticated new techniques that use the Web browsers of unsuspecting, uninvolved people to flood with high levels of traffic,” according to a GitHub blog post. An increasing number of federal agencies are turning to GitHub’s collaborative environment for IT development, FCW wrote.

To try to stay secure, here is the “expert’s guide” to cybersecurity and here are some valuable lessons learned from recent cyberattacks.

Big Data & Analytics

Fast and furiously data-driven. We know about big data, but what about fast data? Howard Baldwin, community editor for Data Driven Business at Forbes, talked about the velocity component of the big data triad and how it can deliver valuable insights quickly. All organizations would like to extract value from their data, but how? Here’s an overview of various analytics capabilities and how you can get big data to work for you.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is also looking to benefit from big data and analytics across the defense enterprise. In a recent request to industry, DISA outlined plans to broaden DOD’s big data and situational awareness capabilities in ways that “cross organizational and systems boundaries for the warfighter,” wrote GCN. They want to integrate various big data operations and establish a standard data architecture.

These capabilities are obviously not just limited to defense. Data and analytics can also create social change, improve healthcare, increase the level of public engagement, and potentially measure livability in cities.

To realize these benefits, however, organizations need to draw from the traditional concepts of data quality and governance – here’s why. Having user-friendly analytics tools and big data certifications are also useful.


Pick a cloud, any cloud. No, not really. You should actually carefully consider what cloud is right for your organization. Mashable provides a helpful outline of the pros and cons of public, private, and hybrid cloud solutions (Hint: Cisco’s Australia-New Zealand head, Ken Boal, thinks hybrid is a good bet for government). Either way, cloud offers government an “innovation dividend.”

Regarding cloud migration, agency CIOs and IT leaders discussed best practices and strategies for success at a recent IBM Center roundtable. NextGov outlined six themes that emerged from the talk, including establishing a consistent understanding of what “cloud means,” integrating cloud innovations with legacy systems, and building security in the cloud.

In other cloud news, the Federal Risk Authorization and Management Program (FedRAMP) issued a document this week looking to further enhance government cloud security. In collaboration with DHS, FedRAMP has created an overlay that integrates the Trusted Internet Connection (TIC) program into its cloud requirements. This will allow agencies to streamline their efforts to secure their data in cloud environments while also securing network connection to the cloud, FedScoop reported.

Quick Hits

GovExec explains four ways to engage the next generation of govie talent.

Shout out to the ladies! Check out DC’s 50 top women in tech. Also, there is an increasing percentage of women in leadership tracks in federal government, according to a new OPM report.

18F wants to make more ‘dot-govs’ accessible to people with disabilities – who can argue with that?

Here are the eight questions you should be asking about the Internet of Things (IoT).

Finally, you can play Pac-Man at any location on Google Maps. Because, why not?


Did I miss something big from this week? Let me know below!


Image credit: Steve Corey, Flickr Creative Commons.

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