GAO raps FAA security

The General Accounting Office pressed the Federal Aviation Administration last week to clean up its computer security with a report detailing recommendations and pushing a response from the agency on actions it has taken.

The report to Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, "FAA Computer Security: Recommendations to Address Continuing Weaknesses," addresses "serious, pervasive problems" that GAO revealed in testimony Sept. 27 before the House Science Committee. GAO said the FAA failed to conduct background checks on contractor personnel who were remediating Year 2000 problems and who were hired to conduct vulnerability testing at the FAA.

The Dec. 6 report insists that the FAA address those critical weaknesses and reminded Slater that the head of a federal agency is required to submit a written response to the GAO's recommendations within 60 days. Another written statement also is due to House and Senate appropriators with the agency's first budget request following the report.

GAO's recommendations were not formally transmitted at the September hearing, said Colleen Phillips, GAO's assistant director of information technology issues. However, GAO officials were pleased that the FAA was committed to working on its personnel, facility, systems, management, policy and intrusion-detection security flaws.

"The FAA agrees with the recommendations and is aggressively pursuing them under our new Office of Information Systems Security," an FAA spokeswoman said. "We have worked closely with GAO on the recommendations and believe the programs we've put into place do address the concerns."

The GAO recommendations can be found in Portable Document Format at www.gao.gov/new.items/d01171.pdf.

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