'

Remote access scares fed IT officials

Survey says: Providing telework options unlikely to take off until security is solved.

What keeps you awake at night? If you're a federal technology leader, your biggest nightmare is about providing remote access to telecommuters, according to a survey of fedtech officials, reports the Washington Post's Stephen Barr.

The survey was conducted in August, at the end of the summer of laptop thefts. The biggest security story was the May loss of a VA laptop with millions of veterans' personal information.

"Right now, the aspect of security getting the most attention is data theft associated with laptops or personal digital assistants," said Gerald T. Charles Jr., an executive with Cisco Systems Inc., which sponsored the survey.

These concerns appear to be slowing the government's efforts to increase telecommuting, at a time when there's increased pressure to make telecommuting work in Washington. As employees live further away from the super-expensive Washington area and Maryland and Virginia roads are stuck in gridlock, telework is a particularly attractive option. Even with concerns, some agencies are moving forward with telework.

For example, the General Services Administration and the Defense Department are examining whether telecommuting can help ease the demands on office space and traffic systems that will be placed on Fort Belvoir when base-closing orders relocate thousands of workers to southern Fairfax County over the next few years, Charles said.

Providing secure remote access, while meeting legal requirements for security and operating agencies on tightening budgets increase the challenges for agencies.

Federal technology officials, representing 45 agencies and the military, also reported losing sleep over inadequately trained or unconcerned employees and software flaws. Despite their concerns, 58 percent of the survey respondents said progress is being made on computer security at their agencies.