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OMB Issues Security Guidelines For Federal Telecommuters

Agencies should take 'immediate action' to outfit federal workers for teleworking
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum this month directing federal agencies on how to set up the proper security to support the addition or expansion of telecommuting among their employees.

The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 goes into effect in June 2012; the idea behind it is to make telecommuting available to more federal workers in order to cut costs on overhead and real estate, and to foster employee productivity from home or at shared government work spaces closer to home. Some federal agencies are already implementing so-called "hoteling" stations that offer shared office space and technology.

OMB director Jacob Lew said in the White House memo that it's "critical for agencies to take immediate action to ensure that their employees are properly equipped" for teleworking.

"If not properly implemented, telework may introduce new information security vulnerabilities into agency systems and networks," he said. At a minimum, agencies must comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) to secure their systems. In addition to OMB policies, they are required to follow National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards and guidelines, which include specifics on how to lock down remote devices. (NIST offers telecommuting information for agencies here).

Federal agencies under the new telecommuting law must control access to data and systems; protect agency information, including personally identifiable information, and systems; "limit" vulnerabilities; protect nonagency controlled systems that users run for teleworking; secure wireless and other telecommunications capabilities; and prevent inappropriate use of official time or agency computing resources, including viewing, downloading, or exchanging pornography.

Lew says agency chief information officers must appoint a technical manager who will interface with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help roll out the agency's security for teleworkers.

The White House has established resources across agencies to access best practices for effective telework management, implementation, and monitoring. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will work with each agency to prepare an annual report on each agency's teleworking program.

OPM's "Guide To Telework In the Federal Government" is available for download here (PDF) here.

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