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Federal Guidelines Issued for Computer Security
scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) released on Nov. 3 an initial public draft of Recommended
Security Controls for Federal Information Systems (NIST
SP 800-53). The publication, which details controls that
will become mandatory for most federal systems in 2005,
to have a wide audience beyond the federal government.
invites public comments on the new draft guidelines for
three months. The agency will hold an open, public workshop
in March 2004 to share comments and discuss possible revisions
to the draft.
document is available at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/drafts.html.
controls are the management, operational and technical
safeguards, and countermeasures prescribed
for a computer
system that, taken together, adequately protect the confidentiality,
integrity and availability of a system and its information.
range from risk assessment to security planning. Operational
include factors such as personnel security and basic
maintenance of hardware and software. Technical safeguards
items such as audit trails and communications protection.
SP 800-53 provides a method for categorizing security
risk levels based upon another recent NIST document,
the draft FIPS Publication 199, Standards for Security
of Federal Information and Information Systems, also
available at the Web address above.
local and tribal governments, as well as private-sector
organizations comprising the critical infrastructure of
the United States, are encouraged
to review the draft
guidelines and may wish to consider using them once
finalized. The guidelines
are applicable to all federal computer systems, except
those designated as national security systems.
to Facilitate World Trade Center Study
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has
reached an agreement with the City of New York (NYC) that
will allow NIST to review additional information related
to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Center (WTC). That information includes NYC 9-1-1 tapes and
the transcripts of approximately 500 interviews of employees
of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) who were involved
in WTC emergency response activities. The review of materials
will take place at NYC offices.
second agreement enables NIST to collect its own first-person
data from New York
City’s WTC first responders.
obtained from the 9-1-1 tapes, the NYC interviews and the
will be used to study occupant
and evacuation, and emergency response as part of the agency’s
federal building and fire safety investigation of the WTC
disaster. Under the National Construction Safety Team Act
NIST Director has taken action to protect the privacy of
the information it receives by the two agreements. With the
agreements in place, NYC will provide NIST investigators
with access to the tapes and transcripts no later than Dec.
31, 2003. NIST expects to begin its interviews of FDNY and
New York Police Department (NYPD) employees shortly.
conduct two types of interviews with FDNY and NYPD
personnel: face-to-face and focus group. The National Commission
on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as
the 9-11 Commission) will participate with NIST in the interview
Web site on the NIST WTC investigation is available at http://wtc.nist.gov.
Your Cell Phone Where It Is and How to Act
cellular telephones and other wireless communication devices
are expected to be much more versatile as consumers gain the
ability to program them in a variety of ways. Scientists and
engineers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) have teamed up with a variety of computing and telecommunications
companies to develop both the test methods and the standard
protocols needed to make this possible.
networks will include location aware services that will allow
to choose a variety of “context aware” call
processing options depending on where they are and who they
are with. For example, a cell phone that “knows” your
location could be programmed to invoke an answering message
service automatically whenever you are in a conference room
or in your
supervisor’s presence. Context aware, programmable cell
phone or PDA networks also may help users with functional tasks
like finding the nearest bank or restaurant. Within organizations,
these capabilities might be used to contact people by their
role and location (e.g., call the cardiologist nearest to the
such capabilities can be realized on common commercial systems,
groundwork must be completed to design and test open
specifications of features, rules and procedures for programmable
call control systems, and to develop protocols that will enable
these systems to utilize context information. NIST, working with
Sun Microsystems, has designed and developed new Java specifications
(JAIN SIP) that provide a common platform for programmable communication
devices. The NIST work is based on the Session Initiation Protocol,
a specification for call control on the Internet. NIST’s
open source implementation (NIST SIP) is a prototype that serves
as a development guide and facilitates interoperability testing
by early industry adopters of this technology.
Superconductor Study Confirms, Extends Nobel Theory
behavior of intermetallic superconductors, like the kind
used in hospital MRI machines, is even more curious than
recent Nobel Prize-winning physicist Alexei Abrikosov had
theorized. In newly reported research,* scientists working
at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Center for Neutron Research have determined that so-called
type II superconductors have the equivalent of a multiple
personality—at least three distinct physical states,
each with its own superconducting behavior. The result should
help engineers design new materials for stronger, more efficient
50 years ago, Abrikosov predicted that superconductors could
retain superconductivity in a
very strong magnetic
field by forming tiny eddies of current. These vortices
allow the field to pass through without disrupting the current,
until a certain threshold is reached and the resistance-free
flow of electrons ceases. Just before the collapse, however,
the materials undergo a dramatic spike in current, called
the peak effect.
a wide range of temperatures and magnetic field strengths,
Brown University and NIST scientists tracked the movements
current eddies in a prototype type II superconductor, niobium.
Their experiments yielded a phase diagram, a kind of a map
that shows how current vortices rearrange in response to changes
temperature and magnetic field.
study confirmed an earlier set of the team’s findings,
but also revealed richer, more complex behavior. The recent
work verified that the peak-effect jump in current corresponds
an abrupt change in the vortex arrangement—similar to
the transformation that occurs when ice melts. They also provide
the first experimental confirmation of Abrikosov’s prediction
that a smooth phase transition occurs for conditions that don’t
produce the peak effect.
Mark Bello, (301) 975-3776
Park, S.M. Choi, D.C. Dender, J.W. Lynn, X.S. Ling, “Fate
of the Peak Effect in a Type-II Superconductor: Multicriticality
in the Bragg-Glass Transition.” Physical Review Letters,
91, 167003 (2003)
Weathers Hurricane Isabel With Backup Fuel Cell Power
Hurricane Isabel tore through the East Coast last month,
it left more than 3.5 million people without power—but
not the emergency services communication system for the Maryland
state government. Thanks to backup power provided by an innovative
fuel cell system, the agency didn’t miss a beat.
Isabel lashed eastern Maryland, grid power failed at Elk
Neck State Park, site of a state government microwave relay
used by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Systems
Services, the Maryland State Police, the Department of Natural
Resources and other critical official communications. Then
a backup generator had to be taken offline.
Maryland had a backup backup. An innovative fuel cell system—developed
by Avista Labs (Spokane, Wash.) and installed by havePOWER,
LLC, (Washington, D.C.)—kicked
in to keep emergency communications on-line. “The fuel
cell system carried the day,” said State of Maryland
Director of Communications Tom Miller.
Avista Labs/havePOWER system uses a unique modular proton
exchange membrane (PEM)
design developed with co-funding
from the NIST Advanced Technology Program (ATP). PEM cells,
introduced in the 1960s, use a thin, hydrogen-permeable
polymer sheet as the critical electrolyte separating anode
Unlike other fuel-cell electrolytes, the PEM is small,
lightweight, and works well at low temperatures. Avista Lab’s
innovations include a modular design that makes the fuel
scalable to meet different applications and allows the
user to swap modules
out for troubleshooting or repair without interrupting
service, both valuable features for emergency power.
more information on the Avista Labs ATP project, go to http://jazz.nist.gov/atpcf/prjbriefs/prjbrief.cfm?ProjectNumber=98-03-0008
Baum, (301) 975-2763
Chemist Receives Rare Forensics Award
Butler, a research chemist at NIST, has been awarded the
Scientific Prize of the International Society for Forensic
Genetics (ISFG) for outstanding work on standardization
and pioneering work on new DNA analysis technologies for
scientists have ever received the prize. The ISFG can award
it as often as every two years, but only
two other winners have
been named during the past 12 years. The ISFG (www.isfg.org)
promotes scientific knowledge in the field of genetic markers
analyzed with forensic purposes. The society membership includes
more than 900 scientists from 54 countries.
was selected unanimously by the ISFG board based on his career
He leads NIST’s forensics/human identity
testing project team and has been involved in the development
of new methods and technologies for forensic DNA analysis
at NIST and other organizations for the past 10 years.
specifically cited his work in improving analysis of single
nucleotide polymorphisms, tiny variations in DNA that can
be used to identify individuals. He also was recognized
for developing standards that have helped improve the reliability
DNA analyses by commercial, forensic and other laboratories.
Most recently, Butler developed a concept for reducing the
size of DNA fragments needed for a definitive identification,*
has proven useful in analyzing damaged or degraded DNA (see
is the author of a leading textbook in the field, and in
2002 he received the Presidential
Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.
John M., Yin Shen, and Bruce R. McCord. 2003. “The Development
of Reduced Size STR Amplicons as Tools for Analysis of Degraded
DNA.” J Forensic Sci, September 2003, Vol. 48, No. 5.
Magnetic Sensors—Measurement results presented
at a technical conference by National Institute of Standards
and Technology (NIST) scientists do not corroborate reports
of dramatic changes in electrical resistance attributed to
ultra-small magnetic sensors that exploit a quantum phenomena
regarded, by some, as the next big thing in magnetic-data-storage
technology. For details see www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/BMReffect.htm