GAO: Create policies for testing IT security

Information Security: Agencies Need to Develop and Implement Adequate Policies for Periodic Testing

A Government Accountability Office review found that federal agencies have not designed policies to regularly test their information security systems, even though the Federal Information Security and Management Act requires periodic IT security testing. GAO reported that most agencies lack policies that state how frequently those tests should occur.

The oversight agency sent the results of its review to the House Government Reform Committee Nov. 20. GAO based its review on case studies of six agencies and a survey of 24 other agencies.

GAO found that agencies rely on weak testing policies that leave the agencies unable to identify common security controls, determine the roles of IT employees or document the testing process.

“As a result, agencies may not have reasonable assurance that controls are implemented correctly, operating as intended and producing the desired outcome with respect to meeting the security requirements of the agency,” according to the report.

GAO added that a lack of periodic testing makes agencies vulnerable to security breaches. It recommended that the Office of Management and Budget request agencies' inspectors general to oversee periodic IT security testing.

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