DHS components lagging on information security, IG says

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IG report

The Homeland Security Department has taken steps to enhance information security, but its component agencies are lagging behind, according to a new report from DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner.

For example, 22 of 25 information technology systems audited at DHS component agencies were lacking detailed emergency configuration plans, management plans, security controls or incident handling procedures, the report states. In addition, 19 of the systems had incomplete contingency plans, and five systems did not follow guidelines for a federal standard.

While the department has implemented a performance plan and made other improvements, “components are still not executing all of the department’s policies, procedures, and practices,” the inspector general concluded.

“Management oversight of the components’ implementation of the department’s policies and procedures needs improvement in order for the department to ensure that all information security weaknesses are tracked and remediated, and enhance the quality of system certification and accreditation,” Skinner wrote.

Other areas that show weaknesses include configuration management, incident detection and analysis, specialized training, and privacy, the report states.

Skinner conducted an independent evaluation of the DHS information security program to comply with the requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002.

During the past year, DHS officials implemented a plan to improve remediation of problems noted in Plan of Action and Milestones; quality of certifications and accreditations, annual testing and validation, and oversight.

However, some systems are being accredited although critical documents and information are missing; plans of action and milestones are not being created for all known security weaknesses; weaknesses are not being mitigated in a timely manner; and baseline security configurations are not being implemented for all systems.

The inspector general made nine recommendations, and department officials agreed with all of them, the report states.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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