Above the Fold 05.07.09

Do you smell that New York? Neither can DHS’s bio-terror gizmos…The WSJ continues its series on “24-style infrastructure hacks I’d be better off not knowing about”…Birds go on strike…VA hacker melodrama continues…Fla. employees look for night jobs…Deloitte to the rescue!…Following stimulus dollars from the cradle to the grave…

The Department of Homeland Security is scrapping a $500 million system called BioWatch, the Washington Post reports. BioWatch is a next-generation biological attack warning system being tested in New York City subways, but Robert Hooks, a deputy assistant secretary, said sensors in 2007 machines were failing. DHS and NYC are saying the decision to scrap the test was mutual and the city is still protected by older sensors. A new generation of sensors called Gen 3 BioWatch will begin testing this summer. “It’s always a trade-off, a balance between how you can get technology out there and how much . . . risk there is that it will divert resources” from better options, he said. “We anticipate because of the production cycle and further testing we’ll be deploying in 2012 widely across the country.” Mark your calendars.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s air-traffic network has been hacked multiple times in recent years, the Wall Street Journal. The FAA will spend $20 billion over the next 15 years to modernize their air-traffic control system, but experts are warning that modernization efforts could increase the risk of cyberattacks. “We are working on developing security architecture for that whole system,” said FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown. “We have identified it as an issue we need to focus some attention on, and we’re doing that.” The FAA has computer intrusion detection at 11 of 734 facilities across the country.

Also in FAA news…A combination of industry skepticism and old fashion government red tap is holding back a bird strike radar from being used in the nations air traffic control towers, the Chicago Tribune reports. “We’ve been talking a lot for 20 years, and now it’s time to put a little more rubber to the pavement,” John Weller, a wildlife biologist with the Federal Aviation Administration, told participants at a national conference on preventing bird strikes. About 8,000 bird strikes have been reported this year in the U.S., although that number is estimated to represent only 20 percent of the total, officials said.

Virginia Governor Tom Kaine is now admitting the existence of a hacker and ransom note, the Associated Press reports. Last week a hacker reportedly broke into the state’s medical professionals computer system and left a note demanding $10 million for what he had stolen. “This is a crime, and it is being treated that way,” the governor said. CivSource has watched this story unfold, Above the Fold – May 1, May 5 and May 6 reports, enjoy.

State employees in Florida are looking at another year of frozen wages, the Orlando Sentinel reports. “It’s a slap at the employees,” said Okoh, a 14-year veteran who makes about $29,000 a year and is a local leader of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. The state has about 112,000 state employees, who’s average salary was about $1,500 short of the $39,762 average for all workers in Florida.

The state of Colorado is looking to make improvements to its 5-year-old, $199 million Colorado Benefits Management System, the Denver Post reports. Deloitte Consulting is going to take over for EDS to manage the food stamps and welfare benefits program for $44 million over the next four years. Department of Human Services officials want to allow Coloradans the ability to enroll and check eligibility online, but that is still a ways off. “Anything to make the application easier is a good start. Maintenance of the whole operation . . . is what we would love,” said Lynnae Flora, who works in the office in Jefferson County. Colorado has had trouble getting food stamps payments out on time and Deloitte has a history in this space, working to develop similar systems in Wisconsin and New York.

Washington Technology reports on the progress of Recovery.gov and the work that Earl Devaney’s Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board is performing. It seems the problem is not money, but time. Devaney’s team has $84 million to play with in order to get with the reporting, but as he testified in front of a House Science and Technology subcommittee, the biggest challenge will be to have everything up and running by October 10 – when states and federal agencies have to have their first big chunk of stimulus reporting into the OMB. In response to a suggestion that Recovery.gov go deeper in tracking dollars Devaney said, “If I could wave a magic wand, I would like to follow the dollars from cradle to grave.”

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