In face of massive cybersecurity threat, government security dawdles

At a time when the cyberthreat level is at its peak, many federal agencies continue to struggle with IT security.

Weaknesses in information security policies and practices at 24 major federal agencies continue to place the confidentiality, integrity and availability of sensitive information and information systems at risk. Consistent with this risk, reports of security incidents from federal agencies are on the rise, increasing more than 650% over the past five years, concluded a report from the watchdogs at the Government Accountability Office this week.

MORE ON SECURITY: IRS: Top 10 things every taxpayer should know about identity theft

"Each of the 24 agencies -- including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and the IRS -- reviewed had weaknesses in information security controls. An underlying reason for these weaknesses is that agencies have not fully implemented their information security programs. As a result, they have limited assurance that controls are in place and operating as intended to protect their information resources, thereby leaving them vulnerable to attack or compromise," the report stated.

The GAO said all agencies had issues with five central security components:

(1) Access controls, which ensure that only authorized individuals can read, alter or delete data.

(2) Configuration management controls, which provide assurance that only authorized software programs are implemented.

(3) Segregation of duties, which reduces the risk that one individual can independently perform inappropriate actions without detection.

(4) Continuity of operations planning, which helps avoid significant disruptions in computer-dependent operations.

(5) Agencywide information security programs, which provide a framework for ensuring that risks are understood and that effective controls are selected and implemented.

"All 24 major federal agencies had access control weaknesses during fiscal year 2010. For example, 18 agencies experienced problems with identifying and authenticating information system users, with at least 7 of these agencies allowing weak authentication practices that could increase vulnerability to unauthorized use of their information systems. Nineteen agencies had weaknesses in controls for authorizing access in such areas as management of inactive accounts and ensuring that only those with a legitimate need had access to sensitive accounts. In addition, 16 agencies did not adequately monitor networks for suspicious activities or report security incidents that had been detected. Without adequate access controls in place, agencies cannot ensure that their information resources are protected from intentional or unintentional harm," the GAO stated.

In reports for fiscal years 2010 and 2011, GAO and agency inspectors general have made hundreds of recommendations to agencies for actions necessary to resolve control deficiencies and information security program shortfalls. Agencies generally agreed with most of the GAO's recommendations and indicated that they would implement them.

Obviously much more needs to be done.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags firewallssecurityIT Securitymalware

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Cooney

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?