GSA wiki sets bad example

The General Services Administration is setting a bad example on how to monitor its public-facing social media websites, according to a new audit report from the agency’s Office of Inspector General.

While the GSA is increasingly utilizing social media to make its public communications more transparent and participatory, it is falling short on protecting against spam, inappropriate comments and configuration errors, the Sept. 28 report states.

In one case, auditors found that a GSA public wiki displayed spam postings that could have contained malicious malware, and also displayed comments that had not been reviewed by the agency, contrary to the GSA’s own policy.


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The spam and the unreviewed comments were displayed on the wiki for several months, creating a risk for the GSA that its wiki was being used as a channel for malware or inappropriate comments.

“These postings can affect the organization’s image where visitors view the submitted content as an endorsement,” Carolyn Presley-Doss, deputy assistant inspector general for finance and IT audits, wrote in the report. “They may also affect the website’s availability by making it difficult for users to find necessary content.”

The report did not identify the specific wiki in question. A spokeswoman for the inspector general's office declined to identify the wiki, citing security reasons and the need to protect against cyberattacks. The GSA’s BetterBuy Wiki is probably its best known wiki, providing vendors an avenue to provide feedback on acquisitions. However, the spokeswoman declined to confirm whether BetterBuy was the wiki in the report.

In another example, the GSA improperly configured one of its social media websites so that users’ private communications could have been compromised, the audit report states. The problem occurred because system officials did not follow GSA guidance for Web application security.

The audit recommended updating GSA’s policies and guidance for social media IT security, strengthening reviews of GSA’s social media sites and establishing IT security standards for the social media platforms widely used at GSA.

The report found problems, and advised changes in several other areas, including configuration management, security documentation labeling and contractor background investigations.

GSA Chief Information Officer Casey Coleman said in the report she agreed with the findings and recommendations.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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