IRS strengthens IT security, auditors say

he Internal Revenue Service significantly improved its security evaluations of major computer systems during fiscal 2008 that are required under the Federal Information Security Management Act, according to a recent report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

The Cybersecurity office of the IRS’ Modernization and Information Technology Services organization took steps to conduct certification and accreditation more efficiently, the TIGTA report released Oct. 23 stated.

“Therefore, this year we evaluate this process as good,” said Michel Phillips, TIGTA’s deputy inspector general for audit, adding that the IRS continues to place a high priority on efforts to improve its security program.

However. the service needs to strengthen the process to make sure that the level of annual security controls and contingency plan testing is adequate, the report said.

The most significant area of concern is implementation of configuration management standards. The IRS has a security configuration policy, but needs to do more to make sure that information systems apply common security configurations established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the report said.

The Office of Management and Budget also directed auditors to evaluate agency progress in implementing the Federal Desktop Core Configuration standard, according to the report. The IRS has adopted the FDCC standard configurations in its workstation security policies and compliance assessment tools, TIGTA said.

“The IRS continues to test FCC standard configurations and, therefore, has only partially implemented the FDCC,” Phillips said, adding that IRS has documented those deviations. IRS, however, is still validating the settings it has implemented, TIGTA said.

The IRS also improved preparation of its Privacy Impact Assessments, which explain how personal information that the government collects will be handled and protected, and took steps to implement OMB's requirements to safeguard and respond to a breach of personally identifiable information, the report said.


However, the IRS still has weaknesses that affect its ability to protect personal information in access controls, audit trails and system configuration settings, TIGTA said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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