Interior remains unplugged

About 6 percent of the Interior Department's computer systems remain disconnected from the Internet, 11 months after a federal judge ordered a departmentwide shutdown citing security concerns, according to a Nov. 1 Interior report.

Most of the systems support the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Office of the Special Trustee, agencies that rely on information technology to fulfill the department's trust fund duties.

"The relative security and integrity of DOI's computer systems is gradually improving," Interior officials said in their 11th status report to the court, one in a series of updates required by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth.

The reporting period, July 1 through Sept. 30, saw little increase in Internet connectivity — a fact attributed to procurement and reconfiguration needs.

The department has awarded several contracts in recent months to vendors, including IBM Corp. and Zantaz Inc., aimed at bolstering information security. WorldCom Inc., meanwhile, has finished the technical design for TrustNet, a new secure network for Indian trust data. Testing and approval are awaiting fiscal 2003 funding.

"I think the fundamental problem over there is that things have been poorly managed for so long, the political risks are enormous...and no one's willing to guarantee the problems are behind them," said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting Inc.

Interior is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit filed by American Indians who are seeking an accurate accounting of money the government owes them for leasing American Indian-owned land and reform of the trust system.

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