Agencies are 'own worst enemy'

ORLANDO, Fla. - The largest security danger facing federal agencies still

is the lack of proper security procedures, leaving known vulnerabilities

in place to be exploited by attackers, federal and industry experts said

Thursday.

Statistics gathered by the Defense Department's Computer Emergency Response

Team and Carnegie Mellon University's CERT Coordination Center show that

94 percent to 98 percent of the security incidents reported by federal agencies

happen because the agencies did not use widely available patches for known

vulnerabilities in their software applications and operating systems.

"We're our own worst enemy," said Maj. Gen. John Campbell, commander

of the DOD Joint Task Force for Computer Network Defense, at the Information

Processing Interagency Conference here.

The CERT/CC serves as the operational arm for the Federal Computer Incident

Response Capability, the civilian agencies' coordinating incident response

group. And while the number of reported incidents is getting larger every

year, agencies are still being attacked using the same security holes, said

Katherine Fithen, manager of the CERT/CC.

But known software holes are not the only problem, Campbell said. Many

times, the vulnerability comes from system administrators or users not bothering

to change a default password or not taking the time to close off all the

openings left by an application's default configuration.

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