U.S. CIO Sounds Alarm on Government Shutdown Security Threat

Kachina Shaw

Prompting readers at The Wall Street Journal to comment that he may be making the situation more precarious, Steven VanRoekel, U.S. CIO, said this week that he is worried about the U.S. federal government shutdown’s effect on cyber security within the government’s systems. VanRoekel describes a multi-layered series of consequences, in which he is unable to even determine definitively which employees in which departments may be designated exempt from furlough. Agencies, other than the Department of Homeland Security, says VanRoekel, are running on “skeleton crews” and would have to call in staff should an emergency occur – a time-consuming process in itself.

While it seems unlikely that his comments would alert any cyber terrorists or hackers to a situation that has been leading the news for weeks, the cascading effects are becoming more widely known.

An interesting piece at Bank Systems & Technology details pending cyber security-related bills that are not going to be considered soon, given the critical discussions around the budget and debt ceiling. Bills addressing everything from cyber security forces for each state that would partner with the private sector, to tax breaks for security investments, to a program allowing for the federal government to produce reports on security efforts in other countries, are necessary but now facing serious delays, according to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

In the private sector, small and midsize technology companies may already be considering hiring slowdowns or other budgetary changes, as a result of the shutdown, says one Baltimore area tech firm CEO. Kloudtrack’s Michael Binko downplays negative effects within governmental departments and larger firms, but says in the Baltimore Business Journal that smaller firms, just now ramping up funding, expansions and contracts, face a more uncertain future.

And speaking of jobs … today’s scheduled jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will not be delivered, courtesy of the government shutdown. The Bureau’s office has retained three employees from its 2,400-strong staff, according to The Washington Post. No new date for the release of the data has been scheduled.

Since I think every editor and writer has run into at least one source of data or information that has gone dark this week, as IT Business Edge’s Loraine Lawson wrote about here, I do believe we’ll revisit the case of the missing data next week.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Oct 10, 2013 10:26 AM Patrick Patrick  says:
I am a contractor for a Federal Agency employed as a cyber security incident responder. I cannot be at my post - even without pay - because federal law prohibits me from working. During this shutdown, I am going without pay, and unlike Civil Service employees, there has been no bill passed by the House to reimburse contractors for their lost wages. This situation creates a very serious danger for our nation caused by a convergence of factors: 1) The information systems of the United States Government are under continual attack from sophisticated and well-funded foreign governments. At this moment, practically no one is working to repel those attacks. We are in fact engaged in a cyber war right now with several nations. And at this moment – no one is guarding the fort. 2) Under normal circumstances, the US Government has a serious shortage of trained personnel to maintain countermeasures to those cyber attacks. Most of the personnel that do exist are now furloughed contractors, who have no hope of reimbursement once they return to work. 3) Since the private sector has a similar shortage of trained cyber security personnel, it behooves those of us who are employed as Federal Reply

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