COVID-19 News: DoD Health Pledge, Space Exercise Cancelled, FTC Fights Stalking Apps

The Federal government and other entities are adjusting to and planning for the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Here’s a quick look at some of the top developments of interest to the Federal IT community:

DoD Chief Pledges Vigilance Against Foes, ‘Every Precaution’ to Ensure Health

Secretary Mark Esper said in a memo today to all Defense Department (DoD) personnel that the agency is committed to taking “every precaution to ensure the health and wellbeing of our people” during the coronavirus pandemic, but also warned the military would not hesitate to alter its posture in the event adversaries try to exploit the current situation. DoD, he said, “is engaged in one of the great global challenges of our time as we work together to combat the spread of the coronavirus.” He continued, “As we do our part to mitigate the effects of this pandemic, we must remain prepared to carry out our core national security missions. Our adversaries may look to exploit this crisis, as much of the world’s attention is directed toward the coronavirus. We will not hesitate to modify our security posture around the world, if necessary.”

FTC Settles with Developer of Stalking Apps

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) gave final approval to a settlement with Retina-X Studios, the developer of three apps that allowed purchasers to monitor mobile devices without the consent of the device user. According to the FTC allegation, these stalking apps, MobileSpy, PhoneSheriff, and TeenShield, “compromised the security of the devices by requiring purchasers to bypass mobile device manufacturer restrictions.” In a 5-0 vote, commissioners approved the settlement restricting Retina-X and its owner from promoting, selling, or distributing any apps that monitor mobile devices, unless the company takes certain steps to ensure that the apps will be used for legitimate purposes. Retina-X and its owner are also required to delete all data collected from the apps and implement a comprehensive information security plan to protect personal information.

Space Exercise Cancelled

The exercise Space Flag 20-2, scheduled for late April in the National Capital Region, has been cancelled due to concerns about COVID-19. Space Flag 20-1 finished on December 20, the day President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act that created the Space Force. Three of the 16,000 airmen that are assigned to the Space Force have tested positive for the disease, said Space Force Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations and commander of U.S. Space Command. Raymond said there are no positive cases in U.S. Space Command.

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