'Love bug' uncovers gaps in fed security

Many agencies have improved their ability to identify and contain computer viruses, but a breakdown in communications across government continues to hamper security efforts, according to a recent report

Many agencies have improved their ability to identify and contain computer

viruses, but a breakdown in communications across government continues to

hamper security efforts, according to a recent report.

Had the federal government done a better job of coordinating their response

to the recent "love bug" virus, agencies would have done an even better

job at minimizing the damage, according to the General Accounting Office,

which studied the response of 20 federal agencies and the government's central

security organizations.

The GAO found fundamental problems in the government's response to the

e-mail-borne "love bug" virus, said Jack Brock, director of governmentwide

and defense information systems at GAO.

A central concern is that the government's designated cybersecurity

groups did not coordinate their efforts to effectively alert agencies to

the virus. The fact that the National Infrastructure Protection Center,

the Federal Computer Incident Response Capability and the Defense Department's

Joint Task Force for Computer Network Defense did not have any set way to

confirm reports of a virus meant that most agencies got the official warning

hours too late, Brock said.

"Agencies did not receive adequate warning," Brock told Sen. Robert

Bennett's (R-Utah) Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institutions.

Agencies did not always help their cause either. In one case, the Customs

Service, part of the Treasury Department, received an Air Force Computer

Emergency Response Team (AFCERT) advisory early in the morning and were

able to stop the virus from severely affecting their systems. But Customs

did not share the alert with any of the other Treasury bureaus, according

to GAO.

So although most agencies were able to minimize the damage, the love

bug incident shows that government systems are not truly secure, Brock said.

"The federal government as a whole needs to do a whole lot better," he said.

"There's a lot of room for improvement here."

The virus also brought several other problems to the surface. GAO found

that the Commerce Department had to delay cleanup and containment efforts

because the technical support staff had not yet arrived at work when users

started reporting the virus. NASA and the Justice Department also had trouble

passing warnings between offices when e-mail went down because the backup

communications systems had not been fully tested.

But other agencies could not handle the sheer number of infected e-mails

they received. Some, such as the Department of Health and Human Services,

were so severely affected that agency officials feared they would not be

able to perform critical functions because all resources were tied up dealing

with the virus.

This situation could possibly cause more problems in the future. Viruses

have been getting more harmful each time they are released on the public

and the government. The love bug virus was a relatively unsophisticated

one, launching only if users opened the e-mail attachment. Some viruses

are more dangerous, launching themselves the moment an e-mail is opened.

"The ILOVEYOU virus demonstrates several weaknesses in our government's

ability to detect and respond to fast-moving cyber events in a coordinated

and efficient manner," Bennett said. "I think perhaps today we may be laying

the foundation for a series of hearings about the coordination of critical

infrastructure responsibility."

Still, the news is not all bad, according to GAO. Some agencies, such

as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, reported success in blocking

virus-infected e-mails by restricting the packet size allowed through its

firewalls until it could download the antivirus vendors' patches. Other

agencies found they had done a good enough job educating employees that

most did not open the suspicious-looking e-mail attachments.

"We are having problems, but we are making progress," said John Hamre,

president and chief executive officer of the Center for Strategic and International

Studies and former deputy secretary of Defense. "It isn't just a grim picture

all around."

NEXT STORY: Microsoft to delay security patch

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.