GAO: Software changes reveal lapses

Federal agencies are failing to follow the proper procedures to ensure that

software changes do not introduce security weaknesses, according to a May

4 letter from the General Accounting Office.

GAO started its look at federal software change controls last year,

following a request from Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the House

Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology.

While originally focusing on the potential of creating security holes

during Year 2000 remediation, the audit of 16 agencies and 128 of their

offices found inadequate policies across the board, said David McClure,

associate director of governmentwide and defense information systems, in

a letter to Horn on May 4.

"Formally documented policies and procedures did not exist or did not

meet the requirements of federal criteria," McClure wrote. "For example,

eight of 16 agencies had not established formal, agencywide policies for

software change management, and 50 of 128 agency components had not established

formal procedures or adopted agency-level guidance."

GAO is putting together recommendations regarding these shortcomings

for the Office of Management and Budget to incorporate into its revisions

to Circular A-130, the central guidance for federal information system management.

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