Security policies fall short

Federal agencies are failing to follow the policies to ensure that changes

in their software and systems do not open security vulnerabilities, the

General Accounting Office told agency officials last month.

In letters to 16 federal chief information officers, GAO officials warned

that "without proper software change controls, there are risks that security

features could be inadvertently or deliberately omitted or rendered inoperable,

processing irregularities could occur, or malicious code could be introduced."

GAO found varying types of policies within each agency, and it often

found no departmentwide policy or oversight. Most agencies are at some stage

of working to develop the appropriate practices based on the Carnegie Mellon

University Software Engineering Institute's Capability Maturity Model, according

to the letters.

But other agencies have not yet taken such steps, including officials

at the FBI who "took issue with the need for a formally documented component-level

change control process," wrote David McClure, associate director of governmentwide

and defense information systems at GAO.

GAO performed the review of the software change controls at the 16 agencies

at the request of Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Government

Reform Committee's Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee.

Horn and other members of the subcommittee had expressed concern about the

possible security vulnerabilities introduced by contractors during Year

2000 remediation projects.

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