Interior IG: Insider cyber risks threaten nation’s hydropower dams

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  • The Interior Department’s inspector general reported at least two of the nation’s largest hydropower dams face a high cyber risk from insider threats. The IG credited the Bureau of Reclamation for isolating its industrial control systems from the public Internet, since those steps would make it hard for a foreign adversary to target the dams. But the report said many of Reclamation’s key systems are remotely controlled from one operations center, and too many personnel within Interior’s network can access them. Auditors found that nine out of 30 accounts with access to systems such as generators, valves and gates had not been used in more than a year, and might be exploited by insiders. (Department of the Interior)
  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) said it wants agencies to report earlier than originally expected on the cybersecurity positions and roles they need. The Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act required agencies to detail their cybersecurity critical needs. Agencies were originally supposed to send their final reports to OPM by next April but the agency now wants a preliminary report by Aug. 31. OPM said agencies’ responses will inform the administration’s perspective on its governmentwide cybersecurity needs. (OPM)
  • As many as 15,000 feds are expected to relocate to new cities this year. Some might expect the government to pay for those expenses.  But a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act took away the deduction for claiming moving, taxed and agency reimbursements as ordinary income. Virginia Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine introduced an amendment to the defense authorization act to patch things up.  After some prompting from Kaine and Warner, the General Services Administration issued a bulletin last month, authorizing agencies to pay the Withholding Tax Allowance and Relocation Tax Income. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Agriculture Department said it is moving from the discovery phase to the operational phase of IT modernization, and it wants industry’s help. USDA and GSA announced they will hold an industry day and “reverse industry” day starting June 27 in Washington, D.C. During the industry day, USDA and GSA will discuss the number and scope of their anticipated procurements under phase 2 of the centers of excellence (CoE) effort as well as the proposed acquisition strategies. The reverse industry day entails one-on-one sessions with vendors to review their capabilities across the five CoE focus areas such as cloud adoption and customer experience. (GSA)
  • Nearly two dozen House Republicans have written to President Donald Trump in opposition of his three recent executive orders on employee firing, official time and collective bargaining. In their letter, the congressmen claimed the orders undermine existing labor laws and asked Trump to rescind them. Virginia Reps. Rob Wittman and Barbara Comstock were among the Republican members who signed the letter. (AFGE)
  • Under the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) new five-year strategic plan, the agency is looking at adopting blockchain technology. IRS Chief Risk Officer Tom Brandt said blockchain could help the agency combat fraud. Since the agency’s first security summit in 2015,  the IRS has found taxpayer-reported cases of identity theft decreased by 64 percent. Under its new five-year strategic plan, the IRS aims to enhance its data usability and analytics. (Federal News Radio)
  • Tuesday night the Senate confirmed Chris Krebs as the next undersecretary of Homeland Security’s National Programs and Protections Directorate (NPPD). Krebs had been performing the duties of the undersecretary since last fall. He said in a statement after being confirmed that among his top legislative priorities is the enactment of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act, which would rename NPPD and refocus its mission. (The Washington Post)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department now has a permanent under secretary for benefits.  Although Paul Lawrence has been on the job for a few weeks, VA made it official Tuesday in a public swearing-in ceremony.  Lawrence, a former contractor executive and Army veteran,  promised to run the Veterans Benefits Administration as a model for efficient service delivery, and to make its financial management practices a model for other federal agencies.  (military.com)
  • The Office of Special Counsel (OCS) said it had another banner year in 2017, winning 16- percent more favorable actions than the year before. Most of OSC’s new matters were prohibited personnel complaints. OSC said it continues to see the most activity from employees at the Veterans Affairs Department, from which it received more than 1800 new employee cases last year. (OSC)