IntelliDyne’s Weekly COVID-19 Tech Digest Vol. 5

IntelliDyne brings you a weekly digest of some of the latest news and insights about COVID-19, how federal agencies and IT officials are dealing with the pandemic, and best practices in order to bolster security and privacy in teleworking environments and encourage improved communications.


Covid-19 Relief Hampered by Legacy Tech and Insufficient Coordination

In a report to the US Congress titled “Opportunities to Improve Federal Response and Recovery Efforts,” the US Government Accountability Office reported that states faced challenges responding to the pandemic outbreak due to outdated software and an overwhelming number of benefits program applications. Specifically, the varied ability of state and local agencies’ “ability to easily modify data systems to incorporate new flexibilities” led to delays and interoperability challenges across CARES Act recovery programs.

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Cybersecurity Risks on the Rise as Nation Adapts to Effects of COVID-19

GovConWire reports that “COVID-19 has triggered a wave of cybersecurity threats in a variety of industries, and security professionals predict that there will be no return to normality.” The increased risks are directly related to the need to social distance in working environments. In the latest Black Hat USA Attendee Survey, more than 70 percent of respondents were concerned that quarantined home workers would be vulnerable to breaking policy and exposing systems to risk.

As part of the effort to overcome these vulnerabilities, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has been collaborating with Health and Human Services, Department of Defense (DoD), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to identify vulnerabilities in networks to prevent cyberattacks.

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Recommendations for IT Modernization in Government Agencies During Covid-19

In a recent column on the Federal News Network website, Gordon Bitko and David Logsdon stated that even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, “outdated government IT systems and processes hinder many federal and state agencies’ ability to deliver services.” The pandemic merely exacerbated this problem, with website and call center failures.
Despite this problem, they stated that the CARES Act stimulus package’s funding for IT modernization was relatively modest with very little for projects such as public health data modernization and digitization of federal employee retirement processing.

They call for four recommendations, including providing adequate funds to modernize IT systems used by agencies working on the front lines of this pandemic; establishing and funding a mechanism that provides federal financial support to state and local government agencies in need of IT and cybersecurity modernization and upgrades; improved investment in cross-agency IT modernization initiatives; and strengthening cybersecurity, workforce training and process transformation.

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National Lab Complex and Federal Agencies Focus on Coronavirus Research

Paul Dabbar, Under Secretary for Science at the Department of Energy, published a letter explaining the efforts of the Energy Department’s National Laboratory Complex and other federal agencies to research the coronavirus. He stated that we are “partnering with leading computing universities and the top technology firms in the world, have formed an unprecedented high-performance computing consortium to research the virus.”

Efforts are focused on three types of problems: using simulations to understand the protein structure of the virus and how it attacks; using AI to identify countermeasures against the virus and accelerate the discovery of treatments; and engaging with policymakers to manage the course of the infection and deploy resources strategically.

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