Some of Interior still disconnected

About 6 percent of the Interior Department's systems remain disconnected from the Internet eight months after a federal judge ordered a departmentwide shutdown due to security concerns, according to a recent Interior report.

Most of the systems support the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Office of Special Trustee, organizations that rely on information technology to fulfill the department's trust fund duties. BIA and OST have assigned project managers to seek reconnection.

Other positions filled at Interior include Roger Mahach as the department's IT security officer, Brian Burns as BIA's chief information officer and Stewart Mitchell as the department's trust security officer.

"The relative security and integrity of the departmental computer systems is improving," Interior Secretary Gale Norton said in her 10th status report to the court, submitted Aug. 1.

SRA International Inc. and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Computer Security Expert Assist Team reviewed the matter in separate assessments in January and April, respectively. The department is now creating a database to centralize those findings and recommendations. Meanwhile, it continues to work with tribal leaders toward a mutual solution to reform.

Interior has held American Indian-owned lands in trust for more than 100 years, leasing the properties and processing revenue earned from farming and drilling. A group of beneficiaries filed a class-action lawsuit in 1996, claiming that poor bookkeeping has prevented landowners and their descendants from determining their account balances. The plaintiffs estimate as much as $10 billion is lost or missing funds.

A decision in the case is pending.

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