Agencies urged to use EA to safeguard data

Mike Castagna, the Commerce Department’s chief information security officer, preaches about the close relationship that should exist between an agency’s enterprise architecture and its information assets. Castagna said enterprise architecture plans give CISOs the perspective they need to understand which important information assets and infrastructures they must protect.

“In many cases, we’re getting so far ahead in technology that we don’t understand the risks.”
Mike Castagna, Commerce Department

“Enterprise architecture can tell the security folks, ‘Here’s what we have, this is what our organization is, and these are the key elements that need to be protected,’ ” Castagna said during a panel discussion at the E-Gov Institute’s Enterprise Architecture 2007 conference earlier this month. The institute is owned by Federal Computer Week’s parent company, 1105 Government Information Group.
Castagna said agencies face increasing pressure to keep up with market changes and technological innovations. Agencies benefit from advances such as broadband connection speeds, but new technologies also create greater complexity and unforeseen network security challenges, he said.

“In many cases, we’re getting so far ahead in technology that we don’t understand the risks,” Castagna said.

The Federal Information Security Management Act requires agencies to protect data and be held accountable for all the data they handle, even after they transfer it to other agencies or contractors, Castagna noted. To manage information technology security, agencies must focus on business and strategy rather than technology, he added.
Agencies can achieve that business focus by making IT security part of their enterprise architecture plans, said Richard Burk, the Office of Management and Budget’s chief architect.

“We want agencies to build in security at the segment level, so when the architect goes to the business owner and begins to design the architecture, they ask questions like ‘What information do you need to collect?’ ” Burk said.

In August, the CIO Council’s Architecture and Infrastructure Committee reviewed one tool that can help agencies manage IT security — the federal enterprise architecture security profile — and found that it didn’t require updating, Burk said. However, he added, agencies are not using the federal enterprise architecture security profile as they should be.

“We have not seen substantial improvement in how the profile is being used,” Burk said.

He added that agencies could field-test the security profile to learn how to use it, which the Justice and Housing and Urban Development departments did in 2006 when the council released Version 2 of the profile.

Burk also said OMB plans to do a better job of articulating how it evaluates agencies’ security. The security profile is “intended to help folks for whom security is not their expertise,” he said. However, he added that agency CISOs also should promote security practices.

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