2014 Market Outlook: Mark Cohn of Unisys Federal Systems Talks Biometrics, Wearable Tech, and the Future of Cybercrime

Mark Cohn, Unisys

Mark Cohn, Unisys Federal Systems

WashingtonExec 2014 Market Outlook Series

As we turn the page on 2013, we look forward to a new year and new opportunities for innovation and growth in the government contracting community. This past year we experienced budget sequestration, a 16-day-long government shutdown, and a perpetually increasing focus on cyber security and healthcare IT.

WashingtonExec reached out to those most knowledgeable and experienced individuals in the federal contracting space. We asked executives in and around the beltway for insight regarding where they see the government contracting community headed in 2014. Topics discussed include M&A activity, cloud computing, healthcare IT, defense, mobility, and more.

Mark Cohn is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Unisys Federal Systems:

Let’s hope that in 2014 we turn the corner on the three major bad news items that undermined confidence in the Federal Government last year: the disappointing healthcare web site rollout, surprising NSA surveillance including collection of communications metadata, and disagreement in Congress resulting in the Government shutdown.  Stabilization of the national enrollment system should allow attention to shift back to the important questions around policy and cost control for health care rather than imperfections in version 1.0 of the IT implementation.  Refinement of the institutional controls over intelligence collection and acknowledgment of other threats to citizen privacy and identity information may result in both greater visibility and emergence of new protections for civil liberties. Perhaps our leaders will avoid harmful brinkmanship when addressing our real budget and deficit control challenges.

On the technology front, a restoration of optimism that the Federal Government can make things better would also be welcome.  There are many compelling examples but the common lesson learned is that it can take several steps over a prolonged time period to achieve complete success and we should never give up on important goals.  Something like TSA’s decade-long effort to implement CAPPS II, Secure Flight, and now TSA PreCheck seems to have led to a very good outcome to make travel more convenient and more secure for the flying public. One need only look at the CBP systems to exploit traveler and cargo risk management information to protect the border without impeding the flow of traffic and goods to appreciate the mission value of IT.

2014 may be the year that we begin to see large scale payoffs in the last few years’ work on improved cybersecurity, user identity verification, and secure information sharing. I believe that the analytic cloud model adopted by NSA that relies on data provenance in a collaborative shared Big Data environment and uses end-to-end strong encryption to trusted end user displays could illustrate a new cost-effective leap forward as an architecture that avoids many of yesterday’s cybersecurity costs and shortcomings. Throw in unobtrusive biometrics for user authentication on mobile devices and tie to encryption keys associated with derived credentials and we can imagine significant progress towards the principal technology challenge of this decade:  securely connecting the cloud, large scale analytics, and the mobile user on a society-wide scale. In the short run the focus may be inside the enterprise and organized communities as shared trust boundaries expand.  Cloud implementations will increasingly be facing issues with host and application security assertion management and data sovereignty so the system sponsor knows physically where data resides and is processed only on trusted platforms.

In parallel, ransomware (a la CryptoLocker) will probably become more epidemic. The creativity and success of cyber bad actors will shock the world with increasing pressure on commercial enterprises to adopt frameworks and standards and possibly leading to new legislation and financial incentives. For much of the public, protection of personal information from commercial parties (not just friendly Governments) will become a front page issue with movement starting on a consumer bill of rights on data collection and limitations on usage of digital details from social media, web tracking, and mobile transactions.  At a minimum, consumer awareness will lead to further differentiation by service providers based on practices (anonymization services, which cloud do you want to permit to have your collected context information?).

On mobility, we will see large scale mission systems going mobile to deliver on the promise of more efficient and effective information collection.   The focus will stay on productivity for the application user but the link to centralized workflow and transaction management systems is crucial for managing the geographically distributed activities of the enterprise in near real time.  At personal scale, wearable devices (glasses, watches, biometric monitors) and wide scale adoption of biometrics for authentication and behavior monitoring will become pervasive enough to begin to see policy and technology impacts on security, device, and application management.  Autonomic sensors (the Internet of Things, drones, robots, whether handheld, vehicle-borne, wearable, or at fixed locations) will join mobility, analytics, and the cloud as a major areas of disruptive technology innovation.



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