Goverment IT News Open Source

Swiss Government Has Microsoft “Dependency”

Open source advocates claim that a Swiss government department must open its doors to non-proprietary software

An ongoing case brought by Red Hat and other open source vendors against the Swiss government’s decision to award an uncontested IT contract to Microsoft could prove pivotal, according to experts.

Commenting on a recent decision by Swiss courts to reject the group of open source suppliers objections against the Microsoft contract, Mark Taylor of the UK-based Open Source Consortium, said the case shows how some government departments find it extremely difficult to extracate themselves from using Microsoft’s technology.

“In effect the Judge said the Swiss Public Sector is so addicted that it would be damaging to withdraw the dependency right now,” said Taylor.

Taylor added that if the ongoing case finds in favour of Microsoft when it finally concludes, it could set a troubling precedent for open source technology uptake in the public sector.

“I suspect this is a watershed moment and this case will play a pivotal part in the public debate from now on…,” said Taylor.

According to comments sent to eWeek Europe by the Swiss law firm, BCCC AVOCATS, last month the Swiss Administrative Court reportedly rejected the claim filed by 18 open source software providers against the Swiss Confederation’s decision to renew a three-year agreement with Microsoft to supply servers and desktops to the Swiss Federal Bureau for Building and Logistics.

In May this year, the open source group led by Red Hat protested what they claim was a Swiss government contract given to Microsoft without any public bidding. The Red Hat group asked a Swiss federal to overturn a contract issued to Microsoft for 14 million Swiss Franc (£8 million) each year. The contract, for “standardised workstations”, was issued with no public bidding process, Red Hat’s legal team reported in a blog – because the Swiss agency asserted there was no sufficient alternative to Microsoft products.

Also commenting on the ongoing case, Karsten Gerloff from the Free Software Foundation said that the Swiss department concerned should break free from its dependance on one vendor.

“Free Software offers users strategic control over their infrastructure. This problem is by no means limited to Switzerland. Across Europe,
it’s quite common for public bodies to either hand out contracts to proprietary software vendors without a proper public bidding procedure,” he said in a blog posting.

Goverment IT Mobile & Wireless News

TalkTalk Threatens Legal Action Over Mandelson’s File-Sharing Strategy

But TalkTalk’s challenge to Mandelson’s plan to disconnect illegal file-sharers depends on EU laws that are still under debate

Internet service provider TalkTalk has threatened to take legal action over Lord Mandelson’s plan to disconnect illegal file-sharers – but lawyers say the ISP’s case depends on European laws that are not yet passed.

TalkTalk’s executive director of strategy and regulation Andrew Heaney said in a blog post that Mandelson’s approach was “based on the principle of ‘guilty until proven innocent’ and substitutes proper judicial process for a kangaroo court”. He also warned that “TalkTalk will continue to resist any attempts to make it impose technical measures on its customers unless directed to do so by a court or recognised tribunal.”

The business secretary announced yesterday in a speech at the Cabinet Forum that the government’s “three strikes” policy on illegal file-sharing will be implemented by July 2011, unless his initial strategy of issuing warning letters brings about a 70 per cent reduction in online piracy. However, he emphasised that “technical measures will be a last resort and I have no expectation of mass suspensions resulting.”

Mandelson’s hard-line approach to file-sharing has already been heavily criticised by ISPs such as BT and TalkTalk, which have complained about the high costs of implementing such a scheme as well as the difficulties of enforcement. TalkTalk has even launched its ‘brightdancing’ ad campaign as a protest against Lord Mandelson’s plans to disconnect people accused of internet piracy without a trial.


Earlier in the month TalkTalk staged a demonstration in Middlesex, in which an internet security consultant used Wi-Fi hijacking to download content, including Barry Manilow’s hit Mandy. Within a couple of hours he had identified 23 wireless connections that were vulnerable to Wi-Fi hijacking on a single street . The aim was to demonstrate the difficulties of proving who is to blame for an illegal download, and that Mandelson’s plan to disconnect offenders could result in a large number of innocent victims.

However, the feasibility of TalkTalk having a serious legal case against the government over file-sharing depends largely on the outcome of formal talks in the European Commission to resolve differences of opinion on internet piracy laws. On 6 October, European telecoms ministers formally rejected the parliament’s key amendment – the now infamous Amendment 138 – which allowed governments and rights holders to force UK ISPs to disconnect their customers from the internet.

In its place, the new provision reads that “Any such measures liable to restrict those fundamental rights or freedoms may only be taken in exceptional circumstances and imposed if they are necessary, appropriate and proportionate within a democratic society… Any measures may only be adopted as a result of a prior, fair and impartial procedure ensuring inter alia that the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to be heard of the person or persons concerned be fully respected.”

Rob Bratby, partner in technology and media law firm Olswang, told eWEEK Europe that some kind of compromise should be reached in Europe over the next couple of months. However, with the date of the government’s digital economy bill in late November fast approaching, the question is whether there is enough time for Mandelson to unite public opinion.

Goverment IT Networking News Security

File-Sharing Case Against UK Teenager Is Dropped

A teenager charged with distributing copyrighted material using the BitTorrent site Oink has been acquitted due to lack of evidence

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has dropped its charges against a teenage boy – who was charged in 2007 with illegally distributing copyrighted material – in a move that is bound to reflect badly on the government’s decision to crack down on Internet piracy.

Matthew Wyatt was only 17 when he was arrested by Cleveland Police, after sharing three albums and one single on popular BitTorrent file-sharing website Oink. According to his lawyers, Wyatt was not responsible for uploading the copyrighted material, but found the music files on a publicly accessible music site and moved them to Oink.

Lack of evidence

On 10 September 2007, several police officers and industry representatives entered Wyatt’s family home and seized more than 160 items. He was charged with distributing copyrighted material so as to prejudicially affect the copyright holder – a criminal offence that carries a maximum custodial sentence of ten years.

“Matthew Wyatt was the victim of a cynical attempt by the record industry to legitimise its heavy-handed tactics and dubious methods by using police resources and the public purse,” said David Cook, of Burrows Bussin Solicitors, which represented Wyatt.

However, the CPS has been forced to drop the case a few weeks before Wyatt’s trial was due to start, due to an oversight by the CPS and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. The two bodies failed to trace the digital watermarks of the copyrighted material back to the source, preventing Wyatt from being prosecuted.

“At no time during the course of this prosecution did the CPS actually produce any evidence that the material in question was in fact copyrighted,” said Cook. “In a world where kudos can be gained through early leaks, and fake tracks consisting of live versions, white noise and loops are rife, we believed that this was a dangerous gap in the evidence. We also found it extraordinary that the copyright holder was never asked to identify the tracks as being theirs.”

Making an example

Cook also claims that charging Wyatt with a criminal offence, rather than treating it as a civil case, was inappropriate. “Case law definitively states that copyright offences arising out of BitTorrent should be put before a civil judge,” he said. “In this case, there appeared a simple reason behind the decision to charge with a criminal act – the IFPI wanted to make an example of Matthew Wyatt.”

The British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) expressed disappointment with CPS’s decision to drop the case, but said it did not undermine the case for tackling the “serious damage done by pre-release piracy”.

Last week, the leader of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman, rejected calls for full debate on the government’s controversial Digital Economy Bill – which could oblige Internet service providers to disconnect illegal file-sharers. The Bill has already passed its third reading in the House of Lords, and the government plans to pass it swiftly, as part of the “wash up” process at the end of the current government’s term. The bill will get a second reading in the House of Commons, which is expected to be the date on which the General Election will be announced. Protesters say this will prevent a full debate on the bill, despite widespread criticism of it.

Oink trials

In January, Alan Ellis – computer programmer and founder of Oink – was unanimously acquitted of conspiracy to defraud, in the UK’s first illegal file-sharing trial. When police raided Ellis’s home in October 2007 they discovered that the site had 200,000 members, who had downloaded 21 million music files. They also found almost £185,000 in his accounts.

However, Ellis explained that Oink did not host any music itself but simply indexed the files users had available on their computers. This allowed members to download music from other users for free. “All I do is really like Google, to really provide a connection between people,” he told police officers.

Despite the verdict, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), said the verdict was a “terrible disappointment”, showing that “the law is so out of touch with where life is these days”. Head of IFPI John Kennedy, said at the time that the industry was considering civil proceedings against Ellis, in a bid to retrieve the £185,000 he raised from the website.

Goverment IT News Security

Turing Papers Saved for Bletchley Park

Lottery money is buying key papers of computing pioneer Alan Turing for the Bletchley Park museum

A lottery grant has bought the papers of computing genius Alan Turing, which will be saved for the nation at the Bletchley Park museum in Buckinghamshire.

The annotated papers – which include Turing’s notes on his pioneering computing research, and wartime work breaking the Enigma code at the Bletchley Park centre – were put up for auction last November, and eventually bought by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, when an Internet campaign fell short of the asking price.

£200,000 Lottery donation

When the auction was announced by Christie’s, tech writer Gareth Halfacree started a JustGiving campaign, which raised £23,000. That auction failed to meet the reserve price, and the National Heritage fund, which uses money raised from the lottery, has now put in £200,000 to buy the papers.

The papers were given by Turing to his friend Professor Maxwell Newman, and include annotations in turing’s handwriting. They will be kept at the Bletchley Park wartime code-breaking site, which is now a national museum of computing.

Turing was a member of the team that cracked the German Enigma Code during the war, contributing to the Allied victory, and afterwards worked on early stored-program computers including the National Physical Laboratory’s Automatic Computing Engine (ACE).

Turing died of cyanide poisining in 1954, following persecution for his sexuality, and 2009 saw prime minister Gordon Brown apologise for the “apalling” treatment of Turing, following a public petition which was signed by thousands.

Important papers

The documents include On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem (1936), a paper which essentially kicked off modern digital computing, as well as patents for computer memory.

The papers also include Computing Machinery and Intelligence (1950), a thesis on artificial intelligence which includes a simple criteria, that became known as the “Turing Test”, to determine whether a machine can be said to “think”.

According to the test, a machine “thinks” if it can fool a human into believing he was communicating with another human and not a machine. Arguably, this test is regularly passed by devices – although events such as the Jeopardy appearance of IBM’s Watson are not Turing tests, as everyone is aware it is a machine.

Goverment IT News

UK Councils Save Millions With Smartphone Apps

Councils in the UK saved more than £200 million in 2009, through the use of innovative mobile apps and web services

Councils across Britain saved a total of £230 million last year by using cutting-edge location-based technology to manage and provide services.

According to the Local Government Association (LGA), mobile web-mapping and satellite technology was used to improve the efficiency of refuse collection, provide up-to-date information about public transport services and keep people informed about roadworks and planning applications.

Location-based services and apps

In South Tyneside, for example, the council has used location-based information to create the ‘My South Tyneside’ web facility. This includes a property search facility for finding schools, libraries and other local facilities, as well as email alerts about local news and events. It is estimated that up to £146,669 of savings were made using the online service, compared to the previous system of dealing with enquiries over the telephone or face-to-face.

Meanwhile, Derbyshire Dales, Telford and Wrekin and Huntingdonshire District and Merton councils have launched a free iPhone app which shows the hygiene rating of pubs and restaurants, as ruled by council environmental health officers. Lancashire County Council has also launched a free app for people to send in photographs of bus shelter vandalism, while Lewisham Council has a similar program relating to fly-tipping and vandalism for use on iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone and Android.

Back in May it was reported that waste management company Biffa was giving RIM BlackBerry smartphones to its staff, enabling them to relay information between the company’s 1,500 refuse collection trucks and the Biffa head office in High Wycombe. The company claimed this enabled it to capture information – including proof of collection – more efficiently and identify the location of its vehicles.

“Whether it’s bin men working smarter, fewer phone calls to inquiry centres, freeing up staff from time-consuming checks or reducing parking ticket machine maintenance costs, making the most of modern technology and data sharing has seen huge cash savings across the country,” said Councillor David Parsons, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Improvement Board.

“This is money which can be ploughed into vital frontline services on which millions of people rely each year, and is yet another example of councils striving to be more efficient to make their stretched budgets go as far as possible. As well as financial savings, tapping into gadgetry has led to better communication with all members of society, young and old, and raised awareness of the services councils offer and how to get the most from them,” he added.


LGA estimates that innovative location-based technologies and information sharing could potentially save councils up to £372 million by 2014/15. It claims that, as residents become more comfortable with accessing information online and via mobile phones, issues can be resolved more quickly and the need for extensive paperwork will be reduced.

This has been one of the principal aims of the government’s digital champion Martha Lane Fox, who earlier this year announced plans to deal with the digital divide, helping the government get poorer citizens online – and saving millions on paper-based access to government services.

“This issue isn’t just about fairness,” said Prime Minister David Cameron at the time. “As Martha’s work shows, promoting digital inclusion is essential for a dynamic modern economy and can help to make government more efficient and effective.”

Despite this, however, it emerged in August that Lane Fox has been given no budget to get the last remaining ten million Brits online – a project which she intended to complete before the end of 2012.

Goverment IT News Security

UK Cyber Security Challenge Launched To Promote Skills

Autumn will see a Cyber Challenge in the UK, designed to create new security professional

A challenge is being launched to persuade users to develop necessary IT security skills in Britain.

The UK Cyber Security Challenge, modelled on the US Cyber Challenge will set tasks, such as treasure hunts or network break-ins, for people who want to establish their information security skills. Winners will get prizes, but will also be up for real jobs in the industry.

Demand for security experts exceeds supply

Details are scanty so far, but the challenge has backing from vendors and government bodies, for a programme which will “bridge the gap between the supply or cyber security experts and the demand,” according to Mohan Koo, managing director in the UK for Australian security firm Dtex – who is on the management team of the challenge.

“There are lots of graduates out there who are skilled, but don’t realise their skills can be harnessed to further a career.” said Koo. The management group surveyed 255 user companies in the UK, and 90 percent of them said they were already having trouble recruiting security professionals, with the majority expecting that difficulty to increase.

The group plans to launch its challenge in autumn, when graduates emerge from university, but aims to sign up more supporting organisations at the Infosec Europe show this week, where the programme will announce its existence.

With sufficient backing, the challenge should be able to offer significant opportunities. The US scheme launched in 2009 has already placed several graduates in jobs as well as creating interesting challenges on the way, said Koo.

Sponsors include the Metropolitan Police, the Cabinet Office, and the Institute of Information Security Professionals.

Goverment IT News

UK Government Breaks Promise To Use SMEs

Despite promising to end the IT oligopoly of big businesses, government is ignoring SMEs

The UK government is doing less business with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) than a few months ago, despite promises by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude earlier this year to end the oligopoly of big business supplying government IT and open up the market to new providers.

At the first meeting of the ‘New Suppliers to Government’ working group, put together by the Cabinet Office, members highlighted that the government’s aspiration to place 25 percent of all its business with SMEs is in direct conflict with projects such as Sir Philip Green’s ‘Efficiency Review’,  which pushes for consolidation within the supply chain.

“There are two competing tensions inside the government,” said Mark Taylor, CEO of Sirius and lead for the New Suppliers to Government working group. “One of them is the Cabinet Office’s stated commitment to getting more SME involvement. However, the other drive within government is pushing things the other way.”

Two conflicting cost-cutting methods

The Efficiency Review, published in October 2010, said that the government can reduce its spending by acting as a single purchaser, consolidating its supply chain and squeezing its suppliers. “The implication of that programme is they will reduce the number of people they buy from to a very small amount of very large suppliers,” said Taylor.

While this can be an effective way to cut costs through economies of scale, it is not appropriate to every sector, added Taylor. In the case of IT in particular, a great deal of innovation is coming from smaller companies, which can help reduce government expenditure through agile processes and open source technologies.

Taylor cited the Ministry of Justice’s CIPHER project as an example of how SMEs are being elbowed out of contracts as a result of these conflicting objectives. Back in March the MoJ cancelled all freelance IT contractors supplied through SMEs and transferred them to outsourcing company Capita‘s £123 million Cipher contract.

“The solution that we are proposing is very simple,” said Taylor. “In the private sector, companies of whatever size will purchase from whichever entity makes the most sense. If it’s a commoditised service, buy it from a huge supermarket at commodity prices. If it’s a specialised service that is appropriate for the business, buy it from an SME.”

The news follows comments last week by Stephen Allott, the Cabinet Office’s crown representative for SMEs, who said that it will take up to two years for Whitehall to stop excluding small businesses from work they could do more effectively than larger rivals.

Allott was quoted in the Telegraph as saying that meaningful reforms were being rolled out, but that they would take time to be implemented. “There are a lot of things that need to be fixed,” he said.

Ending the rip-offs

Back in July, MPs on the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) released a report entitled  “A Recipe For Rip-Offs”: Time For A New Approach, which revealed “obscene” overspending on IT within government departments. According to some sources, the government often pays between seven and ten times more than the standard commercial rate for IT work, said Bernard Jenkin, chair of the PASC.

However, according to Intellect, the trade association that represents IT suppliers of all sizes, allegations of anti-competitive behaviour and the suggestion of an industry cartel were “completely unfounded,” as well as being “inaccurate and misleading”.

“The implication is that leaders of public sector businesses in our industry have been involved in criminal activity,” said Intellect in a statement at the time. “As the trade body for the ICT sector, we want to make it clear that this is not the case and cartels do not exist in our industry. On the contrary, this is a highly competitive market.”

Goverment IT News

UK Government Launches Prototype Alphagov Website

The Cabinet office has unveiled its first attempt to bring all online government services under one roof

The UK government has today unveiled a prototype of the Alphagov website – its first attempt to consolidate the hundreds of public sector services and online resources under one roof.

Alphagov has been developed at a cost of £261,000 by the Cabinet Office, in line with the recommendations of a review by the government’s digital champion, Martha Lane Fox. The website offers an example of what a single UK government website could look like, but is not permanent and is not intended to replace any other government sites.

Digital by default

The home page is dominated by a single large search box, in which users can enter keywords to describe what they are looking for. Users are also invited to enter their location, in order to receive details of local services. Beneath the search box are links to ‘popular tools and topics’ – such as paying your council tax, reporting a stolen passport and booking a driving test – and below that is news from individual government departments.

“Shifting government services to being digital by default would save everyone time, money and unfathomable bucketloads of hassle. So making as simple as possible really matters,” said Tom Loosemore, deputy director of the Alphagov project, in a blog post. “It needs to be so good people actively prefer it to offline alternatives, so much so that they recommend it to friends and family who are not yet online.”

Developers are now asking members of the public to offer their feedback, in order to help them improve the site. It is hoped that will eventually replace the government’s unpopular Directgov portal.

Savings for all

As part of her Race Online 2012 challenge, Martha Lane Fox (pictured) commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to assess the economic impact of everyone in the UK getting online. The research found that if all ‘digitally excluded’ adults did just one of their monthly government transactions online, this would save the government around £900 million a year.

Subsequently, in November 2010, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced that public services transactions would increasingly be provided as online-only services. Existing services, such as student loans, applications for driving licences and jobseeker allowances, would be prime candidates for the move, he said.

The “digital by default” changes are expected to deliver savings of £1.3 billion when 30 percent of government services are moved online. This will rise to £2.2 billion when the 50 percent milestone is reached.

Lane Fox also recommended that all government digital services should be under a single URL. “The user should not have to navigate the departmental structure of government before finding the service or content what they need,” she wrote in an open letter (pdf) to Maude in October 2010.

Industry reaction

The government’s moves to digitalise and consolidate public services have been welcomed by industry commentators including Virgin Media Business, which views the Alphagov website as an example of government embracing shared services.

“By locating resources, services and information into one interactive hub, the public sector will not only benefit from lower costs as a result of website consolidation, but it will also be able to offer a significantly improved online experience for the public,” said Lee Hull, director of public sector at Virgin Media Business.

However, according to Colin Rowland, senior vice president of OpTier, the success of Alphagov will depend on performance, usability and the quality of the interface.

“All too often, over-stretched IT systems let big projects like this one down, as systems become overloaded. Once the website is fully launched, it will be by monitoring end-user experience in real time and proactively tackling potential performance issues before they impact the user that the UK will be able to provide world-class online public services,” he said.

Goverment IT News

UK Donates Skills – Not Cash – For EU Supercomputer Plan

The EU initiative will allow sharing of supercomputers across Europe, but the UK is only donating “resources and expertise”

The UK is one of 20 European countries contributing to a newly launched supercomputing initiative, which will help to boost scientific research into areas such as climate change and drug development.

But while other countries are contributing substantial funds, the UK is joining the likes of Cyprus and Bulgaria in only donating “expertise and resources”.

Officially launched in Barcelona this week, the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) project aims to provide access to supercomputing technology to researchers across the region. The scheme is being funded by contributions of €100 million (£82m) each by Spain, France, Italy and Germany over the next five years. The EC is also contributing around €70 million (£58m) via the EU’s 7th Research Framework Programme.

Efficient Solar Cells

The scheme should make it easier for scientists to get access to supercomputing systems in other countries. The EU believes this could help to speed up projects such as the development of more efficient solar cells or how drugs interact in the body.

“I warmly welcome the launch of the PRACE supercomputer infrastructure as scientific computing is a key driver for the development of modern science and technology and for addressing the major challenges of our time, like climate change, energy saving and the aging population,” said Commission vice-president for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes.

The iniative should give researchers from across Europe access to compute power equivalent to more than 100,000 of today’s fastest PCs, the EC stated. The UK is among a group of 16 countries who will also be providing “resources and expertise” to the project but is not among the lead contributors providing significant funds.

The UK’s Technology Strategy Board was contacted for comment on why the UK was not providing funds for the project, when the likes of Spain and Italy were able to, but did not reply in time for this article. The TSB was set up in 2007 and describes its mission “to stimulate technology-enabled innovation in the areas which offer the greatest scope for boosting UK growth and productivity”.

JUGENE : Fastest In Europe

The PRACE scheme should be up and running by the 1 August 2010. The first supercomputing system being made available is the JUGENE system in Julich, Germany. The system is the fastest in Europe and the fifth fastest in the world, according to the EC. More super computers will join the scheme from 2011.

Last year, the previous government announced funding for supercomputing facility in Wales. The £44.27 million facility is a joint project between the Universities of Swansea and Cardiff and will concentrate on image processing, animation, 3D visualisation, data mining and simulations.

Goverment IT News Security

US Call For Public-Private Alliance To Fight Cyber-Threat

US DHS Secretary calls for the public, government and private industry to work together against cyber-attacks

The United States government needs to collaborate with academia and businesses to fight cyber-attacks, the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in a speech to engineering students at the University of California at Berkeley.

Napolitano outlined some of the cyber-security challenges the federal agency regularly faces while protecting the nation’s critical security infrastructure. Some of the more serious recent threats, she said, included the spread of the Stuxnet worm, the attacks on NASDAQ, the emails stolen from Epsilon and the data breach at RSA Security.

Cyber-Crime A Fact Of Life

While the country is more secure and better prepared than it was a few years ago, the rapid evolution of cyber-space and threats to its security mean “we all have a role to play” in cyber-defence, according to Napolitano. Just as all cities experience some crime, cyber-crime is now part of being online.

While it is the responsibility of the Department of Home Security (DHS) to protect critical infrastructure and cyber-space, “this is not something we can do by ourselves”, but requires a “full range of partners”, according to Napolitano. The “shared security” is only possible if other government agencies, the private sector and individual Internet users all became engaged in the fight, she said.

“Terrorist threats have not gone away… they have evolved,” Napolitano said.

Attacks are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and using “very novel” attack vectors, so it is important to be able to respond to a threat quickly. After the breach at RSA Security where SecurID information was stolen, the DHS worked with RSA, law enforcement authorities and the intelligence community to minimise the damage.

“We took our understanding of the tools, tradecraft and techniques used by these malicious actors and converted it into actionable information that all 18 critical infrastructure sectors could use,” Napolitano said.

The DHS has spearheaded the development of the first-ever National Cyber Incident Response Plan, which enables the agency to co-ordinate the response of multiple agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector in the event of a cyber-attack, Napolitano said.

While the US Science and Technology Directorate is also working on developing and deploying more secure Internet protocols to protect consumers and businesses online, the private sector needs to “redouble its efforts in the quality of products” it offers to fend off hacking, spamming, spoofing and the like, according to Napolitano.

Identity Ecosystem

In her speech, the DHS secretary also addressed the recently finalised “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace” report, an effort to create an identity ecosystem to protect online consumers from fraud. Instead of having usernames and passwords that are different for every Website, Napolitano said a better approach would be to rely on a single set of credentials that would be accepted across all Websites. “Dozens of companies could offer this,” she said.

Even though the cyber-security department at the DHS has “tripled” from 2009 to 2010, it’s not growing fast enough to keep up with the attackers. “We still need more people. We need a strong and innovative group to take on this incredible challenge that protections of cyber-space demand,” Napolitano said.

Napolitano cited recent statistics from Symantec that found cyber-attacks increased 93 percent in 2010, compared with 2009. “We’re dealing with multiple risks at the same time,” she said.

During the question and answer session with the students, Napolitano dodged a question about the infamous Internet kill switch that would allow the government to disconnect critical infrastructure from the Internet in an emergency. Napolitano said that Congress is likely to address the issue this year as part of its cyber-security legislation.

Napolitano has been making the rounds at major universities since the beginning of the year, including MIT and George Washington University, to talk about cyber-security and to encourage students to think about careers in the federal government.

“We need technologists who understand policymaking,” Napolitano said.