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Information Systems and Cybersecurity - Annual Report 2015

The Judiciary continues to build and maintain secure, robust and flexible technology systems and applications that will help meet the changing needs of judges, staff, and the public.

IT Systems Security Strengthened

Recent cyberattacks at major companies and the data breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) underscored the importance of data security and the need for constant vigilance to protect the Judiciary’s data and IT assets.

The AO offers onsite IT security assessments for national program offices and the court community, and creates security documentation to help Judiciary organizations improve their security posture. To date, over 190 security assessments have been conducted by the AO. The assessments helped the Judiciary improve its security posture by consistently identifying corrective actions that can be applied in order to reduce risks.

Remote Access Authentication Improved

To strengthen the Judiciary’s security posture and mitigate vulnerabilities in wireless and virtual private network (VPN) connections, the AO is implementing a remote access authentication solution that includes requiring a second authentication factor (such as a token or session passcode) to provide an additional level of security. The alternative selected is flexible, allowing multiple options to securely and reliably receive the one-time session passcode. Testing concluded in November 2015 and full implementation should be completed in early 2016.

Unify Project to Replace Messaging Systems 

This year, the Judicial Conference Information Technology Committee approved the replacement of the Judiciary’s existing Lotus Notes messaging and collaboration systems with a Microsoft suite of products that includes Outlook, Lync, Sharepoint, and Office 365. This initiative is called the Unify Project.

The Judiciary first adopted Lotus Notes in 2000, when email and calendaring were the primary needs. With increased demand for file sharing, real-time collaboration, integration with mobile device platforms, and instant messaging, replacing Lotus Notes has become a recurring topic of discussion at Judiciary IT-related meetings. The migration to this new collaborative system will be complex and is expected to take approximately four years to complete, beginning once funding has been released as a part of the FY 2016 final appropriations. In its initial year, the project will focus on purchasing licenses and hardware, building an engineering and migration team, and beginning engineering efforts.

Network Reliability Improved with WAN Diversity

The Wide-Area Network (WAN) Diversity initiative was developed to improve the network availability and reliability of court connections to the Judiciary’s wide-area network in support of centralized services at the national Internet Data Centers (IDCs). The initiative reduces the potential for network-related interruptions to court business, improves business continuity, and increases the available WAN bandwidth at court locations. The initial effort began in fiscal year 2013 and is expected to be completed in calendar year 2017.

WAN Diversity will be implemented at all circuit hubs, court headquarter locations and divisional offices with a minimum of 10 court staff, or utilize one of the national services that would benefit from WAN Diversity.

Costs Reduced Through National Video Tele-Conferencing Services

The national video-conferencing service is reducing the Judiciary’s video-conferencing costs by eliminating the need for redundant local connections and equipment. Since the service was made available to all courts in February 2013, 236 court units have joined the National Video Tele-Conferencing Services. Video-conferencing equipment has been installed in 1,400 locations and approximately 4,500 clients use a video-conferencing mobile application. Nearly 69,000 video-conferences have been conducted, with a total of nearly 160,000 hours used to date.

Project Management Tools Streamlined

The AO is streamlining framework and updating project management tools to help project teams develop and execute appropriate plans across the entire lifecycle of a project—from initiation to close-out—to reduce risk of failure or cost overruns. Based on industry best practices, the project management tools include guidance, templates, and checklists.  More robust reports are also being developed for management to use in quarterly reviews.