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GCN : February 2015
6 GCN FEBRUARY 2015 • GCN.COM [BrieFing] portance of open source components to modern software development that we need to ensure integrity in the open source supply chain, so vulnerabili- ties are not populated throughout the hundreds of thousands of software ap- plications that use open source compo- nents,” Royce said. But not everyone thought the pro- posed bill was necessary. Trey Hodg- kins, senior vice president for public sector at the IT Alliance for Public Sec- tor, told Government Technology that he thought H.R. 5793 duplicated security measures many companies already use. “We cannot afford to include known exploitable software in our government infrastructure,” said Wayne Jackson, CEO of Sonatype Inc., a software sup- ply chain service provider that is the steward of the Central Repository, the largest source of Java components, as well as creator of the Apache Maven project and distributor of the Nexus open source repository manager. Today, 90 percent of a typical applica- tion is composed of open source and third-party components, Jackson wrote in a blog post. The Central Repository clocked in 17.2 billion downloads in 2014 – more than 47 million compo- nents every day. That makes the inventory of open source components critical, Jackson said, because without it, IT manag- ers can’t know if their systems contain compromised components. One way to check is with Applica- tion Health Check that provides a free breakdown of every component in an application and alerts IT managers to potential security and licensing prob- lems. “When open source is found to be defective, it’s disclosed, but if you don’t know what’s in your software, that disclosure tips off adversaries who can use it to exploit vulnerabilities,” Jackson said. And hackers get the biggest bang for the buck by going after the com- ponents that are widely used, as the OpenSSL/Heartbleed attack demon- strated. And it’s not just enterprise business software that’s vulnerable, Jackson said. The problem affects the security of any system with digital components, from websites to cars to insulin pumps. The whole Internet of Things is vulner- able to exploits because it is based, in part, on components that have no upgrade path once deployed. There may be no way to completely protect government’s critical systems from determined adversaries, but ensur- ing that the basic building blocks are secure is a good place to start. • Aside from being undisputed world champion of the popular television trivia game show “Jeopardy!,” IBM’s supercomputer Watson is being used by college students to solve New York City’s biggest urban challenges. Students at the City University of New York (CUNY) competed for cash prizes and IBM internships as they designed apps that use Watson to improve city government services and educational outcomes. Watson’s unique features allow it to solve problems by quickly analyzing huge volumes of data, understanding complex questions posed in natural language and proposing evidence- based answers that help improve decision-making, much like humans. Using this capability, students built their applications and got hands-on training that will give them valuable technology and business skills neces- sary to succeed in tomorrow’s data- driven workplace. The first place team in the CUNY- IBM Watson competition designed a virtual case worker assistant to amelio- rate hurdles and difficulties facing New York’s social workers. The app pro- vides case workers with reports while analyzing various patterns specific to the social work industry. The app’s creators believe it will greatly cut down on time spent performing administra- tive tasks and allow social workers to better serve their constituencies. The second place team developed an app called SmartCall, which deliv- ers a more organized and efficient 311 information bulletin service to New Yorkers. The SmartCall app will be able to predict complaints using data from the city to resolve concerns faster. Lastly, the third place team created an education tool called Advyzer that will advise undergraduate students and their counselors and recommend edu- cational tracks based on the student’s learning preferences and graduation requirements. The app also takes into account the student’s career goals and suggests course schedules based on such information. “The partnership with IBM offers students the opportunity to look into the future and the way society does business and provides services. It empowers students to shape the future that they will inherit,” said Stan Altman, professor at Baruch College School of Public Affairs. Students competing came from a wide variety of majors such as com- puter science, marketing, economics, math, urban studies, and finance. All the contestants regardless of where they finished, were able to enroll in summer internships where they can put their applications to use through busi- ness and student-led ventures. • BY MARK POMERLEAU CUNY students turn Watson loose on NYC challenges continued from page 5 0215gcn_005-016.indd 6 2/3/15 9:31 AM