By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 19, 2007
There was the stolen laptop that put the identities of millions of
veterans and soldiers at risk. Then flooding shut down part of the IRS
building, prompting a scramble for electronic files and equipment.
In the wake of such publicized mishaps, security and privacy issues are
taking center stage at this year's FOSE trade show, Washington's largest
convention for federal, state and local government information
technology contractors, as a host of companies peddle new products and
services aimed at sealing and protecting the government's data and
The two-day show at the Washington Convention Center begins tomorrow,
and organizers hope to draw 20,000 people. The event comes as government
spending is likely to be more restrained compared with that of previous
In the past two years, the rate of growth in spending on office
technologies has steadily declined and is projected to increase only
slightly over the next year, said Bill Loomis, an analyst at Stifel
The Office of Management and Budget has allocated $65.5 billion for
information technology for the government in fiscal 2008, up 2.6 percent
from President Bush's 2007 request of $63.8 billion.
"Government clients want to save money and are looking at areas where
they can be more efficient, reduce redundancies and find cost savings,"
Exhibitors such as Hewlett-Packard and Altova have fine-tuned their
marketing pitches, promoting their products and services as "integration
technologies," hoping to persuade government clients to buy their wares
with the promise of making office networks more efficient and less
costly to run.
Yet even as federal spending for information technology moderates, new
security products and services will dominate the booths of the 500
exhibitors at the show this week. Of the 150 new products to be on
display, the majority will be related to securing systems and devices
and making technology more resistant to natural disasters and terrorist
attacks, according to organizer Bill Howell, vice president of the
company running the show, 1105 Government Information Group.
Demand for security products ramped up after the Sept. 11 attacks and
the highly publicized theft and security problems of the last year, he
When a Department of Veterans Affairs laptop and external hard drive
were stolen from an analyst's home last year, millions of veterans'
names and Social Security numbers were put in jeopardy. The department
later determined that the data hadn't been accessed, but the episode
highlighted how easily a large identity theft could occur. The FBI
reported this year that 160 laptops belonging to the agency had been
stolen or were missing. Hurricanes on the Gulf Coast and last summer's
storms that flooded parts of the region also brought attention to the
risk natural disasters pose to agencies.
Meganet Corp. of Los Angeles, for example, will show off its fingerprint
authentication technology, which has been adopted by the VA and
Transportation departments for portable gear. Austin-based Pragma
Systems Inc. will demonstrate software for authentication and encryption
for Windows-based servers, desktop computers and mobile devices.
The need for security products has become particularly crucial as
government workers become more mobile, with laptops, gadgets and a
greater emphasis by some agencies for employees to work from home. In a
survey by Cisco Systems, four out of 10 federal technology officials
said they worry about security breaches involving employees who take
their work on the road, communicating with agencies via the Internet or
"You just have to look at the [heavy] traffic in Washington to know why
teleworking is top on the list of so many federal employees," said Steve
O'Keeffe, president of O'Keeffe & Co. in Alexandria, a marketing and
consulting firm for technology contractors. "As workers look for ways to
make their technology more mobile, smaller, cheaper and faster, issues
of security and privacy become critically important."
Copyright 2007 The Washington Post Company
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