Connected capabilities can improve mission operations, but require appropriate infrastructure, security, and governance.
As devices and technologies are increasingly interconnected and can collect more data, federal agencies are looking to harness the power of the “internet of things” to collect data and increase communications to improve their work. of mission.
For biomedical research, IOT capabilities have been useful in training ecosystems and improving instruments to generate large amounts of data on biological profiles, chemical properties, and data analysis. These capabilities enable researchers to improve drug and treatment discovery, noted Timothy Mierzwa, corporate strategy manager at the Computing Resources Branch of the National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences (NCATS).
Not only are agencies using IOT to improve data collection, but they are also leveraging connected devices to disseminate that respective data and other critical information. This is the case with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said James Rodd, head of the agency’s cloud portfolio. In particular, FEMA has and will continue to use IOT to disseminate information in response to disasters.
While there are different use cases for IoT adoption, there are also different challenges and considerations to consider before integrating them into mission operations. On the one hand, agencies need to have the right infrastructure in place to enable data ingestion and analysis to get the most out of IOT.
“At NCATS, we have a combination of not only smart devices and instruments, but also cloud infrastructure to handle this big data analysis that comes from these instruments and devices,” Mierzwa said.
FEMA is focused on maintaining the telecommunications infrastructure necessary to reliably deliver information. To do this, Rodd said the agency relied on its First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, to create a reliable mobile communications network.
Cloud and telecommunications infrastructure is the key to a successful IOT deployment as well as cybersecurity. Increasing device connectivity and usage also means that the attack surface is expanding, making additional security measures essential for agencies adopting IOT capabilities. This is certainly the case for the Department of Defense, said Chief of Implementation and Policy Stacy Bostjanick.
“One of the things that we’re working hard on at DOD is providing those standards that have to be met to at least meet the minimum level of security, to protect ourselves from our adversaries, because as everyone knows, hopefully , with CISA’s ‘Shields Up’ information that came out,” Bostjanick said. that we maintain our advantage.”
Rodd added that safety is also paramount to FEMA, especially during emergency response. He said maintaining basic updates is one of the most critical steps to keep connected devices secure.
“[Make] ensure your mobile devices are updated to the latest firmware, that you are aware of any security weaknesses discovered either by white hackers or individual companies – or even black hat [hackers] – and they have now done something to fix the problem,” Rodd said. “Basic systemic and network maintenance is an essential tool beyond sophisticated software, firewalls and VPNs, all the other types we use as well.”
Applying zero trust principles to IOT security practices is another way Mierzwa is securing connected devices. It sought to segment the IOT ecosystems within the NCATS network so that respective devices would not have access to data they should not have.
After establishing the architecture and security, the policy and governance of the IOT must be addressed.
“You need to understand the capabilities and vulnerabilities of anything that’s put together, and then put the right parameters in place for using them, because there are always these unintended consequences that you get into when you start doing these things – especially when we deploy them quickly in an emergency,” Bostjanick said. “Then we find out later what the problems are there and we have to go back, but this governance and these policies are there so you don’t stumble again .”