Privacy Officials Call for Cautious Telework Practices

By Lisa Simunaci,

As the COVID-19 situation means more employees are teleworking, Army privacy officials are calling for caution when it comes to transmitting personally identifiable information, or PII.

“Employees are trying to be inclusive and keep each other abreast of circumstances as teleworking expands across our organizations,” said Beth-Anne Ward, the privacy program manager for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command.

Personal Identifying information is any information about an individual which can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity. PII includes information such as rank, name, Social Security number, date and place of birth, mother’s maiden name, biometric data, and financial or medical records. Failure to properly protect PII could result in significant harm to individuals, to include embarrassment, inconvenience, financial loss, identity theft, and other types of distress.

“While we are limiting face-to-face discussions and relying more heavily on email, we must add that extra layer of attention and think things through before we push send,” Ward said. “Exposed PII puts both individuals and the command at risk.”

Ward cautions those who deal with this type of information to carefully consider who they copy on emails, particularly when high-impact information, such as Social Security numbers, are involved.

“Think about who really needs to have that information,” Ward said. “We must be cognizant of all recipients and limit the distribution to those with a need to know.”

Email that includes PII must be encrypted and the subject heading must include “FOUO – PII” or “UNCLASSIFIED//FOUO PROTECTED BY PRIVACY ACT.” The subject marking calls attention to the email content, and hopefully prevents careless forwarding to those without a need to know, Ward said.

“PII data elements require protective handling and safeguarding,” Ward said. “We are reminding our workforce about those data levels to protect peoples’ private information and decrease the risk of data breaches.”

Along with emails, many employees are turning to SharePoint to boost collaboration. Ward cautions that those who need to use SharePoint for PII must contact administrators to ensure their site is secured.

“Otherwise, Social Security numbers do not belong on SharePoint,” she said.

“Protecting sensitive information is everyone’s business,” said AMCOM Chief of Staff Col. Rick Zampelli. “Anyone who suspects a breach or receives unencrypted PII should report it to privacy officials.”

Ward agreed.

“Breaches have a negative effect,” Ward said. “However, we know mistakes happen. I encourage people to report so we can minimize the impact.”

TVA’s IT on Frontline for COVID-19 Pandemic Safety

Employees around the nation are heeding the call to limit their personal interactions by teleworking.

In the process, teleworking has stressed IT networks and is spotlighting cybersecurity concerns for businesses around the world.

TVA IT prepared for mass telework by running drills to simulate a real-life activation of enterprise-wide work-at-home procedures. (Photo/Tennessee Valley Authority)

“First and foremost, TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) IT continues to work around the clock to ensure business continuity and identify, protect, detect and respond to issues that could threaten critical cyber assets,” said Jeremy Fisher, TVA’s Chief Information Officer. “We continually invest in our IT and cybersecurity programs, and the team is working to keep employees connected and the power flowing in the midst of the pandemic.”

The move for employees to work remotely is challenging the nation’s IT resources in an unprecedented way.

Tech giants such as Google and Microsoft are rushing to secure and enable systems to support exponentially higher use of VPN and other systems, such as WebEx, that enable successful telework.

NetworkWorld reported on March 19 that research by one VPN vendor shows that VPN usage in the U.S. grew by 53 percent between March 9 and 15, and it could grow faster. In addition, Cisco reported its WebEx platform increase 33 times over two weeks ago.

According to Fisher, TVA has seen virtual connectivity grow from 1,689 users on March 18 to more than 4,700 on March 19. Fisher said this is more than double the usage for a normal day, and TVA IT maintained a 99.8 percent application availability. 

“We could not have doubled our users overnight without proper planning and a great team of IT professionals,” said Fisher. “We have a structure that allows all our IT employees to contribute to the mission of keeping power flowing to nearly 10 million people.”

TVA IT prepared for mass telework by running drills to simulate a real-life activation of enterprise-wide work-at-home procedures. To help increase employee support, TVA’s internal IT Help Desk increased hours to address any emergent concerns or the increase of employee IT questions during this time.

“We’ve hit a few peaks and firsts for IT this month,” said Fisher. “The overall response from the IT team during the Coronavirus outbreak has been outstanding. This is an “all-hands-on-deck” situation, and the team has a commitment to collaboration, problem-solving and communication as issues have come up.

“Not only have we had to respond to issues with our own systems, but we are also tackling issues that are taxing even the biggest tech companies. We are seeing the value of IT in action.”


Cybersecurity Certification and Intellectual Property: ‘Only Information is Misinformation, Right Now’

Intellectual property is a company’s most valued asset.

Unfortunately, it is also what cybercriminals are hoping to catch on their on their next phishing trip in Hacker’s Pond.

Simple Helix CEO Tracy Collins: “Consultants, suppliers, they all have great opinions, but do your homework.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

It’s a business’s biggest nightmare at worst; a major inconvenience at best. When dealing with government agencies, the risk is even greater.

To that end, the Department of Defense rolled out its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification which surpasses compliance initiatives currently in place. Once implemented, CMMC will be a mandatory certification for all contractors and subcontractors doing business with the government.

To clarify misconceptions and answer questions regarding CMMC, Simple Helix and H2L Solutions teamed up to present, “CMMC: Where Assessment Meets Implementation.”

“We appreciate you meeting with us today,” said Tracy Collins, CEO of Simple Helix. “We’re really excited to discuss a topic that’s top of mind for many of us.

“The only information is misinformation, right now.”

Collins empathized that each business has its own needs and budget; he recommended that companies do their research, keeping those factors in mind.

“Base your decisions on your business. You have choices, despite what you’re told by others, said Collins. “Consultants, suppliers, they all have great opinions, but do your homework.”

“The government will never tell you one way or another,” said Stan Lozovsky, vice president/chief operations officer of H2L Solutions. “They provide the requirement and it’s up to the company to meet those requirements.”

H2L Solutions VP/COO Stan Lozovsky: CMMC “is here to protect your business …” (Photo/Steve Babin)

As CMMC is implemented, companies may not be able to do business with the government without the proper security procedures in place.

“CMMC is not here to hinder your business,” said Lozovsky. “It is here to protect your business and to force businesses to take a posture to protect information, your intellectual property, and how you do business.”

The government is taking a staggered approach to implementation, he said.

“The government has a five-year plan for roll-out,” said Lozovsky. “Whenever there’s a mod (modification), there’s a cost to the government, as well. There’s also a learning curve.

“You can’t really just flip a switch and expect everyone to just start doing everything, right off the bat.”

Self-certification will also be a thing of the past – third-party auditors must verify the certification criteria.

And history has demonstrated that self-certification isn’t always effective.

“It will force people into taking an active role in cybersecurity,” said Lozovsky.

“The CMMC implementation doesn’t have to be expensive,” said Scott McDaniel, vice president of Technology for Simple Helix. “Do your homework; you have choices with the vendors, tools, and the solutions that you choose to implement.”




Avilution Breaks Ground on Avionics Facility

Avilution recently broke ground at Huntsville International Airport for its facility to produce groundbreaking avionics software.

“We are really excited to be here, celebrating Avilution – and the groundbreaking technology that will transform the aviation industry,” said Rick Tucker, CEO of the Port of Huntsville.

Avilution customers “are innovative pioneers who are building the next generation of general aviation aircraft.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

“Huntsville International Airport is proud to be home to Avilution,” said Tucker. “Being that we are an airport and the software being developed by Avilution is avionics framework, we couldn’t think of a better location for the facility. We are excited to see world-class software that is shaping our industry being developed right here in Huntsville.”

Founded by Mark Spencer, Avilution got its start in 2010 and has been focused on the avionics industry since 2015.

Spencer said Avilution approaches avionics as a software problem rather than as a hardware problem, which gives them a lot of flexibility and allows them to bring products to market more quickly than a more traditional approach.

“Our customers are innovative pioneers who are building the next generation of general aviation aircraft,” said Spencer.” “We are working to provide customized solutions that fit the aircraft’s mission and unique requirements.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong were also on hand to celebrate the groundbreaking.

Battle spoke of the importance of having entrepreneurs – serial entrepreneurs, in particular, “that drive the local economy by starting business after business. Spencer is that kind of entrepreneur,” said Battle.

“Mark not only has a bright mind, but makes an effort to help people,” said Strong.

The avionics framework developed by Avilution is called eXtensible Flight System (XFS). This framework allows for the rapid development of robust and future-proof avionics that free the consumer from vendor lock-in and obsolescence.

Avilution’s first packaged commercial offering, the Unpanel, is an avionics package tailor-made for VFR pilots. The new facility will house up to 24 employees and the facility is slated to be completed in late October.

“Mark is going to change the industry by transforming the world of avionics,” said Tucker.

Q&A with Sen. Doug Jones: Workforce Development

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) recently sat down with the Huntsville Business Journal and discussed several issues important to our state and nation.  This is the first installment of five reports from the interview. Today’s topic is Workforce Development.

As a strong proponent of workforce development initiatives, Sen. Doug Jones introduced the Working On Rewarding and Keeping Employees Resilient (WORKER) and the Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce Acts.

Sen. Jones: “… some jobs are going to be eliminated, but it will also give us opportunities.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

The legislation was designed to increase federal investments in workforce development and training to help prepare workers for the jobs of the future and to promote education and training for workers in high-demand industries, along with the expansion of registered apprentice programs.

The WORKER Act would:

  • Expand programs in engineering at elementary and secondary schools by awarding grants to local educational agencies to support, develop, and implement formal and informal engineering education programs in elementary and secondary schools;
  • Expand programs in maker education at schools to teach hands-on skills in design and manufacturing by amending the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to allow funding for “maker education,” “makerspaces,” and training for teachers;
  • Expand promotion of registered apprentice programs by the Department of Labor, including outreach to underrepresented populations, young people, and veterans;
  • Promote collaboration with post-secondary institutions to promote apprenticeships, including allowing academic credit for apprenticeship programs;
  • Coordinate unemployment programs with career counseling, job search assistance, training assistance, and income support services to better support unemployed workers in finding a job;
  • Create a Training Voucher program to support dislocated workers completing short term training in in-demand industry sectors; and,
  • Create a stipend for dislocated workers to ensure their transportation and child care costs can be covered while they retrain for new jobs.

The Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act would:

  • Create a grant program through the Department of Labor to support industry or sector partnerships in developing and carrying out training programs for workers who are, or are likely to become, dislocated because of advances in technology, including automation.
  • Increase funding for National Dislocated Worker Grants and amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to ensure workers who are dislocated by automation are included in WIOA programs.
  • Direct the GAO to conduct a study of the barriers to providing, and opportunities for improving, training for workers in industries that are most likely to be impacted by automation.

These two key pieces of legislation were developed to help ensure that employees throughout Alabama and the nation are prepared for and have access to well-paid skilled jobs and have the skills that they need to successfully navigate the transition that will result from advances in automation and technology.

HBJ: Can you tell us about the Tomorrow’s Workforce and WORKER acts?

Sen. Jones: “… if we want to continue to attract industry to this state, we’re going to need a trained workforce.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

Jones: There are a lot of things that we’re doing that reflect what I believe, are meeting some of the more pressing needs in Alabama. We’ve got low unemployment, which is great; but, at the same time, if we want to continue to attract industry to this state, we’re going to need a trained workforce.

We’re also seeing that automation is going to continue at the pace – if not a quicker pace, than we’ve seen. That’s going to mean that some jobs are going to be eliminated, but it will also give us opportunities.

The work that we’re doing with both career-technical advances as well as the Tomorrow’s Workforce and WORKER bills are going to do things to plan for that: to get people trained, to see what niches can be filled with workforce development, whether that’s through a four-year college, a two-year college, or some type of apprenticeship or certification program.

I’m really big on apprenticeships. I’d like to see more public-private type partnerships; companies going into the schools.

We’re looking at a little bit of red tape to cut out, first. The Department of Labor requires a lot, so we’re looking at that.

That’s the gist of what those bills are going to be doing. To make sure that we’ve got the 21st century workforce for the companies that will be coming as automation takes over.

HBJ: What about dislocated workers?

Jones: It’s going to be an issue for everybody; it’s going to be an issue for Alabama.

We’re moving in a way to help make sure that our infrastructure and our jobs save this planet. That’s going to transition away from some things into new forms of energy.

There are a lot of opportunities there, but you’ve got to be able to transition. You can’t just flip a switch and cut off fossil fuels. What we’re seeing is that more and more companies are now coming to the table to talk about that.

We’ve got issues down in Gadsden right now, where a number of workers are going to be laid off from the Goodyear plant, which is likely to close. We need to get them over to Gadsden State or some other places to let them learn new skills and new trades because they’re still of working age.

Some of those workers will be displaced workers in the sense that their jobs may get phased out. They are still employable; they have families and they’re going to want to work.

We’ve got to do the training and education that will help with that. Our two-year college system is primed to do that.”

(Tomorrow: Sen. Jones discusses the state of health care and efforts to help improve it)


HudsonAlpha Launches Biotech Mentoring Program for Entrepreneurs

The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology has launched a mentoring program to help strengthen biotech and life sciences entrepreneurs as business leaders in North Alabama, capitalizing on the wealth of business talent in the region.

The program, called Navigate, was established last fall and is modeled after MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service program which has been mentoring entrepreneurs for more than 20 years.

Through careful, thoughtful and deliberate selection, Navigate matches growing entrepreneurs with teams of c-suite executives, experienced entrepreneurs and subject matter experts from North Alabama to provide them a group of confidential and conflict-free advisors.

“HudsonAlpha founders Jim Hudson and Lonnie McMillian were both serial entrepreneurs and mentors to countless entrepreneurs, including some of the Navigate mentors,” said Carter Wells, vice president for economic development at HudsonAlpha and director of Navigate. “Navigate is a way for us to bring the entrepreneurial and mentor spirit that created HudsonAlpha to entrepreneurs looking to grow in the life sciences community.”

Navigate’s first class of mentors includes a who’s-who of business executives, serial entrepreneurs and civic leaders. The current mentors are:

  • Paul Gierow, Founder, GATR Technologies
  • Matthew Parker, PhD, Associate, Maynard Cooper
  • Kevin Gold, Operating Partner, Integrated Openings Solutions
  • Steve Hettinger, Former engineer, manager and public servant
  • Irma Tuder, Founder and CEO, Analytical Services, Inc.
  • Pat Shields, Senior Financial Advisor, Morgan Stanley
  • Gary Bolton, Vice President Global Marketing, Adtran
  • Barry Derrick, Product Manager, Adtran
  • Danny Windham, COO, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology
  • Peggy Sammon, CEO, GeneCapture
  • Rex Vaughn, President, Madison County Farmers Federation
  • Michelle Stark, Marketing Director, Red Sage Communications
  • Brian Pollock, CEO and Founder, Kailos Genetics
  • Tom Young, CEO Kord Technologies
  • Richard Marsden, Shareholder, Maynard Cooper

“I’ve been involved with HudsonAlpha for a number of years as a board member and ambassador, and I’m excited for the opportunity to bring my experience as an entrepreneur and business leader to the innovative companies at the Institute,” said Irma Tuder, founder of Analytical Services Inc.

After completing its pilot phase, the program will be available to companies across North Alabama. Companies must be involved in biotech or life sciences for consideration. For information, email

School of Cyber Technology & Engineering Announces Funding

The Alabama School of Cyber Technology & Engineering has received $250,000 in new funds, according to an announcement Thursday.

To date, the school’s foundation has raised close to $11 million locally. The goal is to raise $35 million from throughout the state.

Facebook and a pair of Huntsville-based companies made the most-recent contributions.

Facebook, which is building a data center in Huntsville, donated $100,000; Sentar, with owners Peter and Karen Kiss, will contribute $100,000; and DESE Research President Michael Kirkpatrick announced a $50,000 contribution.

ASCTE President Matt Massey recognized Oakwood University and its President Dr. Leslie Pollard, who was in attendance at the announcement.

The school will open this fall at Oakwood, which is serving as the interim site for the first two years while the permanent location is built at the intersection of Bradford Drive and Wynn Drive in Cummings Research Park.

Construction is expected to be finished in the summer of 2022. Initial enrollment is approximately 100 students, with plans to expand to 300 in grades 9-12, with approximately half living on campus in dormitories.

BAE Systems to Purchase Collins Aerospace’s Military GPS, Raytheon’s Radio Businesses

BAE Systems said it intends to buy Collins Aerospace’s military Global Positioning System business  and Raytheon’s Airborne Tactical Radios business for a combined $2.2 billion.

The two high-performing businesses are being sold in connection with obtaining the required antitrust clearances for the previously announced pending merger between Raytheon and United Technologies Corp, BAE Systems said in a news release.

According to BAE, the asset purchase agreement for the Collins military GPS business calls for cash of $1.925 billion, with an expected tax benefit of approximately $365 million. For Raytheon’s ATR business, the purchase agreement calls for cash of $275 million, with an expected tax benefit of approximately $50 million.

“As militaries around the world increasingly operate in contested environments, the industry-leading, battle-tested products of these two businesses will complement and extend our existing portfolio of solutions we offer our customers,” said Jerry DeMuro, CEO of BAE Systems. “This unique opportunity to acquire critical radio and GPS capabilities strengthens our position as a leading provider of defense electronics and communications systems, and further supports our alignment with the modernization priorities of the U.S. military and its partners.”

These proposed acquisitions are subject to the successful closure of the Raytheon-UTC transaction and other customary closing conditions. Upon closure, both business lines would be integrated into the company’s Electronic Systems sector.

BAE Systems, Collins Aerospace and Raytheon have facilities in Huntsville.

“These are strong businesses with talented employees who share our focus on quality and technology innovation,” said Tom Arseneault, President and COO of BAE Systems. “We are confident of a smooth transition that will accelerate our future together and look forward to welcoming these new employees to the BAE Systems team once the transactions are approved.”

Qualis Acquires Bonham Technologies

Qualis, an integrator of technical and engineering services to the Department of Defense and NASA, has acquired Bonham Technologies, a diversified Service Disabled, Veteran-Owned, Small Business.

Bonham, which like Qualis is Huntsville-based, provides technical, programmatic and logistical support services for combat weapon systems and associated support equipment.

Founded in 2004 by retired Army Col. Louis Bonham, BTI has provided a wide-array of UH-60 fleet support and systems integration, test and evaluation, and training support for ground vehicles.

“The acquisition of such a reputable company as BTI will significantly enhance Qualis’ unmanned and rotary wing aviation capabilities in the competitive Huntsville market,” said Qualis President Roderick Duke.

“We wholeheartedly welcome Lou and team,” said Qualis Founder and CEO Elizabeth Morard. The acquisition “marks a meaningful growth milestone in Qualis’ history to add this capable group of people to the Qualis family.

“I appreciate the initiative and dedication of Rod and team to make this happen.”

BTI has become a proven aviation contractor throughout its history providing aviation and missile weapons systems support to organizations such as the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center, formerly known as the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal. Over the past decade, BTI has provided innovative solutions to the rotary wing industry with both integrity and a commitment to excellence.

“This acquisition will be advantageous for Qualis’ strategic direction as we continue to expand our aviation service offerings,” said Duke.

Birmingham-based Keysys opens office at HudsonAlpha

Keysys, a Birmingham-based custom software development company, announced today its expansion into the Huntsville market.

The company will open an office at the HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology in Cummings Research Park. Greg Engle, former CEO of API Digital, will be the general manager of the Huntsville office.

Founded in 2007, Keysys has seen steady growth in the Birmingham area through its focus on helping business leaders “get the important stuff done.”

“At Keysys, we’re all excited to be an active participant in Huntsville’s community and hire talent in the area,” said CEO Jim Bob McAllister. “We plan to take our proven model of building software collaboratively under one roof and replicate that in Huntsville, partnering with area businesses to keep revenue and talent in Huntsville.”

Keysys has received the Birmingham Business Journal’s Small Business Award as well as being named one of “Birmingham’s Best Places to Work”.