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Comment: Why doesn't NASA Just.... (Score 1) 226

by AMuse (#41992863) Attached to: NASA To Encrypt All of Its Laptops

An awful lot of people in this thread have quick and simple "just do this" solutions for NASA's data encryption challenges.

NASA isn't your standard corporate environment - there are serious challenges to any "Just do X" solution. They DO need to encrypt everything but its not a simple single-answer thing. They have to accommodate every scenario from "HR newbie with PII data in an office envrionment" to "Laptop collecting data on a C-130 as it flies through hurricanes" to "Laptops controlling robots in the desert during field tests sulating Martian environments".

In many of those cases a laptop with broken
encryption software means millions of wasted dollars if the experiment is a wash.

In other cases NOT having crypto means serious secrecy issues.

Anyway, there's no excuse for this loss but could we please stop pretending that NASA literally never considered DAR on mobile devices, and that simply doing {your favorite product} on everything would solve all the problems?

Thanks....

Comment: Re:i don't understand... (Score 1) 226

by AMuse (#41992727) Attached to: NASA To Encrypt All of Its Laptops

Wow, do you bring the servers with you when you go do field tests of your robot in the desert? Or on the plane when you're doing hurricane fly-through ops?

Wait, you don't have those kinds of complexities in your corp? Interesting.

I wonder if NASA is a really complicated and nuanced sort of place and how that might provide challenges for these sorts of seemingly trivial things.

Comment: Re:Google's airport (Score 1) 86

by AMuse (#38348534) Attached to: Google Founder Offer $33M For Use of NASA Airship Hangar

Just to clarify for other readers, you post makes it sound like "NASA Doesn't do much" at NASA ARC.

I work at ARC, and it's a wonderful research facility! In just my short time here I've been involved with groups doing pioneering work in computer science and robotics, supercomputing, avionics, aviation safety, cockpit design, UAVs (for science, not war!), earth science, biology, astrophysics, planetary discovery, and so much more!!

NASA Kepler, which just found a "twin" earth (Google: Kepler 22-b) was begun here, and the science operations are still performed here.

Quite a lot of great stuff comes out of NASA Ames, for a very small overall price tag.

Comment: Re:Houston, we have a serious security problem... (Score 3, Insightful) 45

by AMuse (#36168400) Attached to: Hack Targets NASA's Earth Observation System

Hi all; I actually work for NASA as an IT Security guy.

While I can't answer specifics about this incident, you should remember that a great many things done by NASA are "General Science", and the data output from them is specifically and consciously made public.

It's possible that the FTP server is meant to be serving those files "to the public".

Why FTP instead of SFTP? Usually when you choose to make data public to the world, you don't bother implementing crypto on the data. And just because it's available via FTP for distribution, does not mean insecure FTP was used to *place* the data on the server.

Comment: "What is a datacenter?" (Score 2, Insightful) 246

by AMuse (#33883448) Attached to: Feds Discover 1,000 More Government Data Centers

Before everyone gets all spun up on government waste, inefficiency, etc - I'd like to point out that numbers like these are never accurate. (For the record, I work for the feds, in the IT field).

The problem with "The feds have X datacenters" as a metric is that various audits occur at different times and by different auditors. These auditors almost always have differing definitions for what a datacenter actually is.

In one audit, a group can come through and define "Datacenter" as a big room where servers are co-located and services run on behalf of others. They'll find 2 at my center. Then a year later, a different group comes in and defines "Datacenter" as anywhere that more than 5 computers are running and left on all night. They'll find 200 at my center. Yes, this actually happened! The auditors came through dozens of science labs, found project servers sitting in the labs, and labeled each lab a datacenter.

Now here is the trick to why the statistics are complete mush. A normal IT guy would walk through the lab and say "Hey, that server should be in a datacenter!" -- but the auditors make the reverse conclusion. "Hey, this lab is a datacenter".

Yes, there is waste in the federal sphere and we absolutely need to take action to be more efficient at all levels. However, this article is basically pushing a number that came from someones' imagination, and pretending it's meaningful.

Comment: Re:Firefox/Chrome extension? (Score 1) 149

by AMuse (#33110986) Attached to: Microsoft's Ad Team Trumps IE Developers' Privacy Aims

Duh, how could I not think of a prompt + whitelist. :P

Then again, that presents the "NoScript" problem. While techies generally tend to use noscript, I pretty much see non-techies clicking "Temporarily allow all this page" on every page they visit that "doesn't work right" without even looking at the URL lists. So, a prompt to whitelist content would probably just get the same treatment. Better than status quo I suppose, but not a panacea either.

Comment: Re:Saw Stop is great (Score 3, Informative) 631

by AMuse (#31544574) Attached to: Company Sued, Loses For Not Using Patented Tech

One of the well documented problems is that if you cut wood that is "too wet" then the brake will activate, thinking that it's hit flesh.

So really the article should say "Each time you cut wood that's too damp (which you have no way to determine beforehand) you pay $169 to replace the blade and brake". That puts into focus why some woodworkers who know how to be careful do not WANT the safety feature.

Comment: Re:Simulation of the results follows (Score 1) 73

by AMuse (#31110270) Attached to: Simulated Hack To Test US Government Response

Sounds like an excellent idea for foreign espionage. Set up a private shell company, then invite a bunch of former officials who know exactly how the real systems work, to get together in a hotel you've bugged and start pretending they're responding to a cyber attack of some sort.

Official1: "Call the NSA Task force Orange, tell them to begin operation Stork."
ForeignAgent: (making notes) Operation Stork.... NSA... means X..."

Comment: Re:Is NASA suffering from mission creep? (Score 2, Interesting) 55

by AMuse (#30299838) Attached to: NASA Nebula, Cloud Computing In a Container

There's another important factor in the paranoia about data breaches and risk that's often VERY overlooked.

As part of the chain of responsibility, the CIO community (the individual CIOs at the 11 NASA centers, and the federal CIOs in general) are very risk-averse. Why might that be? Well, in addition to the normal slamming your agency has to endure if there's a data/privacy breach, the CIOs and decision makers may also be civilly or criminally liable for negligence if it can be shown that they were permitting workplace practices that went against federal regulations. A few CIOs that I know are actually carrying personal liability insurance (out of their own pockets) to cover themselves in case such accusations are leveled.

Now, imagine you're the person tasked with pushing the envelope technologically (Hey, it's what NASA does) but the only thing your bosses ever remind you of is that it's your ass on the line if anything is ever breached, inappropriately stored or transmitted, etc -- and that fines and jail time aren't out of the question. That's enough to make someone pretty risk-averse!

Comment: Re:Is NASA suffering from mission creep? (Score 2, Informative) 55

by AMuse (#30299454) Attached to: NASA Nebula, Cloud Computing In a Container

To follow up on this (Disclaimer: I am a NASA employee), NASA and other federal agencies are prohibited by policy and law from transmitting or storing many of our data types on non-government owned hardware and networks. (Transmitting of course can be done if it's tightly encrypted). Processing our data on private servers is strictly prohibited in many cases.

The most frequently cited laws and policies which dictate this are FISMA and OMB M-06-16, but there are many others. Employees are even prohibited from doing team collaboration with things like Google Docs, because information which is not yet deemed to be sensitive (say, an immature design for a propulsion system) might become very sensitive, and once it's "out" it is out for good.

Like it or not, there's a lot of other countries with developing missile programs, communications programs and many other technologies which have dual civilian and military use, and NASA is charged by congress with keeping technology that may have military applications out of foreign hands.

If Nebula is able to perform as well as clouds such as EC2 and the like, and allow NASA and other federal agencies to do cloud style processing within the government sector, it could save HUGE amounts of taxpayer money that's otherwise legally obligated to be "Wasted".

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