The Depressing Gap Between Apple and the U.S. Federal Government is Widening

| Particle Debris

Apple is a company that's always taking our breath away. Whether it's the new Mac Pro, 5K iMac, the 2015 MacBook, the spectacular development of the iPhone, advanced technologies in OS X and iOS, Swift, or whatever, sometimes it's really hard to keep pace. Apple, as Phil Schiller has explained at WWDC, wants to take risks and push the limits of technology.

This is how Apple creates a sense of excitement about the future, makes lots if money, and ensures its survival. Even as the customer feels some of it it, the sensation is even more noticeable as an Apple employee. One is exposed to everything, one is encouraged to know everything, always be on top of everything Apple does and explain it with panache.

In turn, it's especially hard to sell Apple's brand of relentless surging into the future to the U.S. Federal government. It requires ample funding to totally embrace Apple's products and technology. This is why Apple products, historically have been relegated to specific groups that couldn't do without such as video production or scientific visualization. That strategy has worked to control costs.

Changing Times

Nowadays, there's an arms race going on between governments. It's not only happening with nuclear weapons, submarines, or missiles. It's also happening on the Internet. Just as the EuroPay/MasterCard/Visa consortium is working to upgrade payment technology, identify weak payment links and assign liability, the U.S. government should be doing the same with secure systems.

For example, how can a government organization that's been seriously breached not consider that the director and every manager must receive a poor performance rating? With jobs at risk. In fact, they shrug and write it off to insufficient funding. There are no failures sufficient to put a an agency, indeed the whole government and its employees, out of business.

Not yet.

The stance Apple has taken on privacy and security and its tendency to quickly leave insufficient technology in the past stands in dramatic contrast to the U.S. Navy which finds itself, incredibly, still dependent on Windows XP. (See page 2 below.) The Navy has had years to prepare for the end of XP support and failed to move forward.

I've seen serious IT managers pooh-pooh Apple products and technologies in the past. It's a rationalization. If one cannot keep up, then it's time for a plate of sour grapes. That thinking must be left behind.

Our most important secrets are going to keep being spilled until the rationalization stops and proper money and accoutability flows into security initiatives. That means ruthlessly leaving the past behind, just like Apple. Meanwhile, the federal frog gets groggier and groggier in the quickly heating water.

Next page: the tech news debris for the week of June 22. How to defeat anti-virus software for fun and profit.

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Comments

JustCause

The number of companies that rely on Windows XP still is amazing, not just the government!! What’s even funnier is the number of Windows NT and Novell Netware still running…

Governments are hamstrung by taxpayers, Fortune 500 companies by idiotic management :-D

palmac

Actually, from what I’ve seen governments are mostly hamstrung by putting people in charge who are computer illiterate.  They order millions worth of computers that can’t handle the job because it’s the model they use at home to google the internet.  They spend large portions of their budgets hiring expensive “consultants” while ignoring their own tech staff.  Worse of all, they get a free trip to the Bahamas for a “seminar” and award contracts to shell companies who turn around and contract out the actual tech work to the lowest bidders who are incapable of doing the job, keeping half or more of the money for themselves.

MacFrogger

John,

WRT: “Meanwhile, the federal frog gets groggier and groggier in the quickly heating water.”

HEY!!!  I resemble that remark!  wink

iJack

If we don’t push our government into the future, it will push us into the past.

Scott B in DC

“For example, how can a government organization that’s been seriously breached not consider that the director and every manager must receive a poor performance rating?”

Because there is no law that says so. The Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) does not have any provisions for holding anyone responsible for security breaches. Even though there were proposals that the Authorizing Official (AO) who signed the Authority To Operate (ATO) to be held responsible, those aspects of the bill that eventually became FISMA was never voted out of committee. It seems that the lobbyists for the large contractors convinced congress that it would be a bad idea because as the bill was written it would have opened them up to be liable for the failures on systems they built. In fact, there was a threat from the largest contractors that they would pull out of their government work if this measure was passed.

When they realized that they couldn’t write a bill that would make someone responsible while protecting corporate interests, congress folded like a cheap suit and removed the penalties for violating FISMA.

There is a provision of the Privacy Act of 1974 that makes it a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $5,000 for illegal disclosure of personal information. But that law and the subsequent updates were written before the Internet age and amounts to nothing more than a slap on the wrist. However, a prosecutor with balls would charge these people with the crime and the number of counts being the number of lost records. There’s a hook in federal law that multiple misdemeanor counts could be charged as a felony. But that means someone in the Department of Justice would have to really have balls to do this. It ain’t going to happen.

Look… I know where the bodies are buried. I’ve been working for the government since the 1990s. I know all the reasons why decisions are made. It is astonishing what the government gets away with and why and how safe your information is not (with exceptions). And it’s sad because there are people like me who know better who get shouted down at meetings and get excoriated afterward because we know better and they are too stupid to see it.

I really need to get out of this business!

MacFrogger

Amen Scott B, amen! 

The corrupting effect of money and lobbying on the Congress are at the root cause of so many of our national problems, not only creating new ones but preventing us from solving older, festering ones.

jackadoodle

A really fantastic and perceptive article. Well done!  Extremely thought provoking.

ibuck

The corrupting effect of money and lobbying on the Congress are at the root cause of so many of our national problems, not only creating new ones but preventing us from solving older, festering ones.

Amen, MacFrogger. Corporate campaign contributions should be recognized for what they are: Bribes. Until US voters disallow corporate personhood and overturn Citizens United, these national problems will worsen. But Americans seem to lack the will and courage to do so. Voting out pro-corporate candidates, seems to be the first step.

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