TIGTA: IRS disregarded security gaps in CADE

The Internal Revenue Service implemented two of its most important modernized information technology business systems despite knowing the systems had security vulnerabilities that put the security and privacy of taxpayer information at risk, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) said in a report.

The IRS did so despite having policies and procedures that require security and privacy safeguards be designed and built into systems early in their life cycle before they are deployed, said Russell George, TIGTA’s inspector general, in a report released Oct. 16. IRS offices did not carry out their responsibilities for ensuring that security weaknesses were corrected before deployment, he said.

“IRS processes for ensuring that security controls are implemented before systems are deployed failed because key organizations did not consider the known security vulnerabilities to be significant,” George said.

The two modernization systems are the Customer Account Data Engine (CADE), the foundation for managing all taxpayer accounts that will replace existing tax processing systems, and the Account Management Services (AMS) system. That system would provide faster and improved access by employees to taxpayer account data for customer service, the report said.

Security weaknesses in controls over sensitive data protection, system access, monitoring of system access, and disaster recovery continue to exist even though key phases of the CADE and the AMS have already been put in place, George said.

“In the case of the CADE and AMS. the IRS was aware of, and even self-identified, these weaknesses. This is very troublesome,” he said.

As a result, the IRS is jeopardizing the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of an increasing volume of tax information for millions of taxpayers as these systems are put into operation, he said.

TIGTA recommended previously that IRS officials consider all security vulnerabilities which affect the overall security of these systems before implementation. TIGTA also recommended in this report -- and the IRS agreed -- to:

  • Place equal emphasis on security and functionality before approving system milestones.

  • Emphasize preventing and resolving security vulnerabilities before proceeding to the next system life cycle stage.

  • Improve accuracy and completeness of risk information in security assessment reports.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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