1. Editor's Note: Katrina's IT Legacy
2. Today's Top Story:
- AT&T Hack Highlights Web Site Vulnerabilities
- AT&T Says Hackers Accessed Customers' Cards
- Research: Privacy, Security Problems Alarming But Fixable
- Study: Used Cell Phones, PDAs Contain Confidential Data
3. Breaking News
- FBI Shows Off Counterterrorism Database
- Google, Microsoft Online Apps Raise Security Questions
- Most IT Pros Are Looking For A New Job, Says Survey
- Microsoft Readies Fix For DRM Hack
- Firefox 2.0 Beta 2 Will Launch Today
- Amazon: Office 2007 To Ship In January
- Microsoft Releases QnA Search In Beta
- Google Offers Free Book Downloads
- Microsoft Investigates Leak Of 'Office' Videos
- Review: Antec TruePower Trio 650 Power Supply
- Chinese iPod Factory Owner Sues For Libel
- Weather.com Doesn't Weather Traffic Flood
4. Grab Bag
- Cell Phone Recycling Brings Tech To Developing World (AP)
- Demise Of Tower Records Sign Of New Digital Age (AFP)
- A Big Blue Feeding Frenzy (BusinessWeek Online)
- Patent Fight Rattles Academic Computing (AP)
5. In Depth: Katrina & IT
- Disaster Readiness Puts Tech Tools To The Test
- Brief: Neither Hurricanes Nor Executive Orders Propel Electronic Medical Records
- Exec Sees IT Workforce Shortage In New Orleans
- Hurricane-Prone States Face Big Communication Problems This Storm Season
- Katrina Lessons Should Help Planning Health-Data Access In Other Crises: Report
- Red Cross Learns IT Lessons From Katrina
- Outsourcers Could Play A Major Role In Federal Emergency Preparedness
- Chertoff Says IT Weaknesses Hurt Katrina Response
6. Voice Of Authority
- Katrina Teaches Red Cross The Value Of Collaboration
7. White Papers
- TCO Of On-Demand Applications Is Significantly Better For SMBs, Midmarket
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"The great thing about a computer notebook is that no matter how much you stuff into it, it doesn't get bigger or heavier." Bill Gates
1. Editor's Note: Katrina's IT Legacy
This week marks the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation of New Orleans. In case there was any danger of forgetting the ability of Mother Nature to wreak unspeakable havoc, she highlighted the date by bringing forth Hurricanes Ernesto and John.
While Ernesto was barely able to summon tropical storm status by the time it hit southern Florida, John is now a Category 4 storm hovering off the Mexican coast.
We may have escaped any significant damage this time, but the hurricane season has only just begun. There will be more to come, and who knows what will happen to Ernesto as it heads back out to sea and then inland to the Carolinas later this week.
Katrina highlighted many shortcomings in our nation's technical infrastructure and level of disaster readiness. IT and high technology both shouldered some of the blame and have been tapped as part of the solution. Katrina's legacy has to be a total overhaul of the country's disaster preparedness and the technology used to enable a swift response during the event and a quick recovery afterward. That may have been the initial plan in the wrenching weeks following the hurricane as the nation agonized over the failures of FEMA and the inadequacies of the state and federal responses to the storm and its aftermath, but a year later, where are we? Not very far, it appears.
As you'll see in the In Depth report below, we're still struggling on many levels to reach storm-driven goals, be it local needs like finding IT workers in New Orleans, meeting the national imperative to get medical and prescription records digitized, or even unraveling the incompatible snarl of emergency communications systems that failed so profoundly a year ago.
For one thing, we're still in a meeting and conferencing mode, tossing around ideas at events such as Synthetic Portland, a disaster-preparedness conference held Aug. 18, where local officials, academics, and business leaders discussed a model for data sharing during an emergency. Obviously, the problems under discussion and the technical solutions being proposed at events such as this are very complex and very expensive. It will take time but how much time we have before the next big disaster is anyone's guess.
For example, take FEMA. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a U.S. Senate committee in February that in order to better handle the next catastrophic event, his department and FEMA needed interoperability, hardened communications, a tracking system for shipments, improved surveillance resources, upgraded software, better hardware, and more Web site capacity for disaster registration and processing. Talk about a total overhaul.
Still, some progress worth noting has been made. One shining star seems to be the Red Cross, which, under the leadership of CIO Steve Cooper, managed to recognize and change policies that weren't working, while also galvanizing the high-tech community in the immediate aftermath of the storm to help work out an IT strategy (and in some cases provide the equipment needed) in short order. Collaboration, a concept often in short supply between government organizations, was key to Cooper's success.
More recently was last week's disaster readiness test. A mock exercise built around the idea of a massive viral outbreak and a series of cyberattacks was designed to test not just general disaster preparedness, but cybersecurity readiness as well. The emphasis was on the intersection of social needs and technology, putting numerous technologies to the test.
On a very small scale, there's the American Red Cross of Central Florida, which will be deploying MessageOne's AlertFind emergency notification system going forward. The system will enable the agency to contact and direct volunteers in minutes, rather than days. Of course, this strategy is still dependent upon a working communications systems. But it's a significant improvement. "Days, hours, and minutes really do matter in a crisis situation," says Becky Sebren, director of emergency services for Central Florida Red Cross.
What advice would you give to the government agencies and IT experts trying to ensure a better response to the next disaster, and what technologies do think would work best under emergency conditions? You can leave your comments at my blog entry here or send them to the e-mail address below.
Research: Privacy, Security Problems Alarming But Fixable
According to one study, some 84% of network attacks could have been thwarted if, after checking the user ID and password, the organization had simply authenticated the identity of the invasive computer with commercially available software.
Amazon: Office 2007 To Ship In January
Amazon's preorder listings for various Office 2007 editions indicate that the software will be released Jan. 30, the same day the online retailer has slated for Windows Vista's availability.
Microsoft Releases QnA Search In Beta
Users can ask and answer questions, attach keywords to make the queries easier to find by others, and take advantage of an e-mail notification service.
Google Offers Free Book Downloads
Out-of-copyright books have been available for reading online through Book Search. The new feature makes it possible for people to store books on their computers and make copies.
Chinese iPod Factory Owner Sues For Libel
Two Chinese journalists have had their cars confiscated, among other things, and are being sued for libel after their newspaper printed a story about long working hours and poor conditions in a local iPod factory.
Weather.com Doesn't Weather Traffic Flood
According to U.K.-based Netcraft, Weather.com was either offline or showing signs of sluggishness Tuesday evening into early Wednesday. The highest traffic from the United States was recorded Tuesday.
Securing Customer Records
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4. Grab Bag
Cell Phone Recycling Brings Tech To Developing World (AP)
With the number of cell phones in use worldwide hitting 2 billion and rising, recycled phones are playing a crucial role in the spread of wireless communications across the developing world, where landlines can be costly or unavailable.
Demise Of Tower Records Sign Of New Digital Age (AFP)
Who killed Tower Records? The Internet seems to be the prime suspect in the demise of the pioneering music retailer, which filed for bankruptcy earlier this month for the second time in two years for its U.S. stores.
A Big Blue Feeding Frenzy (BusinessWeek Online)
After nearly five decades of thinking of IBM as the world's No. 1 computer company, most people are just getting comfortable with the idea of calling it a tech-services outfit. Well, it turns out that label doesn't fit so well, either. It fails to recognize the huge boost that IBM is getting these days from its $16.8 billion software division.
Patent Fight Rattles Academic Computing (AP)
In a move that has shaken up the e-learning community, Blackboard has been awarded a patent establishing its claims to some of the basic features of the software that powers online education. It has prompted an angry backlash from the academic computing community, which is fighting back in techie fashion through online petitions and in a sprawling Wikipedia entry that helps make its case.
Exec Sees IT Workforce Shortage In New Orleans
Vince Gremillion, president of New Orleans-based Restech Information Services, didn't lose his house or office, but he has lost valuable members of his staff and has not been able to replace them.
Katrina Teaches Red Cross The Value Of Collaboration
Steve Cooper knows pressure he was the nation's first CIO of Homeland Security, arguably the toughest CIO job in America after the 9/11 attacks. Yet his mettle wasn't truly tested till Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Gulf Coast a year ago, only months after he became CIO at the American Red Cross.
5 Top Federal Initiatives For 2015As InformationWeek Government readers were busy firming up their fiscal year 2015 budgets, we asked them to rate more than 30 IT initiatives in terms of importance and current leadership focus. No surprise, among more than 30 options, security is No. 1. After that, things get less predictable.
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.