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Feds Issue Government Teleworker Security Guidelines

OMB rules apply to departments, agencies that must secure access to wireless networks and IT systems when employees work remotely.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
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Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
Protection of external IT systems and safeguarding wireless and other telecommunications capabilities that federal teleworkers use are among security guidelines the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has stipulated as part of the Obama administration's telework policy.

In a memo this week, the OMB released the guidelines to support activity made possible by the Federal Telework Act of 2010, signed in December by President Obama to codify an activity the federal government already was engaged in and beginning to embrace on a wider scale. The memo was directed at the heads of executive departments and agencies.

"Telework ... provides federal employees the ability to continue working during inclement weather, emergencies, or situations that may disrupt normal operations," OMB Director Jacob Lew wrote in the memo. "However, telework is only as effective as the technologies used to support it, which is why it is critical for agencies to take immediate action to ensure that their employees are properly equipped.

The two-page memo on security guidelines are a complement to a 41-page document of overall teleworking guidelines the OMB released in April to inform departments and agencies how to manage employees who are eligible for telework and choose to do so. That document put the task of coming up with security guidelines in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Indeed, as part of the guidelines spelled out in the memo, agencies and departments also must comply with the requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002, better known as FISMA, for which NIST develops standards and guidelines.

In addition to securing wired and wireless networks teleworkers might use while performing their federal duties, agencies also must address several other issues to ensure teleworkers are performing their tasks securely.

Agencies and departments must control access to agency information and IT systems while employees telework, and also protect agency information--including personally identifiable information--and IT systems, according to the memo.

Other guidelines they must follow include limiting the introduction of vulnerabilities and preventing inappropriate use of official time or resources that violate federal policies regarding the viewing of pornography--including child pornography--while at work.

To ensure the implementation of these policies, agency CIOS must appoint a technical point of contact to the DHS, according to the OMB.

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