DHS IG calls for better RFID security

The Homeland Security Department has good control over the physical security of its radio frequency identification (RFID) systems, but the department needs to address some related vulnerabilities before those systems are completely secure, according to the department’s inspector general.

One problem is that DHS does not have a departmentwide policy for how its various agencies should manage and protect systems that use RFID, and some agencies apparently have not bothered to develop their own policies. Without those policies, DHS can’t be sure that agencies have effective control, the IG said in a recent report.

In addition, the IG audited several agencies in which operating procedures in areas such as physical security of unused tags and the proper destruction of damaged tags were either incomplete or were not followed consistently, the IG writes.

Also, security controls are not integrated into all RFID systems currently under development in DHS. Security is most effective when introduced during the development phase, rather than waiting for systems to become operational, according to the IG.

Finally, the department needs to include better security controls on the databases that support RFID, the report states. Similar to vulnerabilities the IG detected in other DHS databases previously, weaknesses in the RFID databases could be used to get unauthorized access to sensitive data.

DHS’ deputy chief information officer, Charles Armstrong, agreed with all of the IG’s findings and said its recommendation for strengthening RFID security would be implemented, mainly through the department’s Plan of Action and Milestones process.

Most of that would be completed this year. Armstrong warned that other actions, such as the need to improve vulnerability assessments, could take several years to fully implement.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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