DHS has problems with IT internal controls, audit says

Coast Guard and civilian agencies putting financial data at risk

The Homeland Security Department has weaknesses in its information technology systems that might hurt its financial controls, according to an independent audit by accounting firm KPMG.

"We noted that the Coast Guard’s core financial system configuration management process controls are not operating effectively and continue to present risks to DHS financial data confidentiality, integrity and availability,” the audit states. DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner released the document Dec. 2.

The problems are likely caused by developers including inadequate security controls when implementing IT systems.

“The current IT configurations of many Coast Guard financial systems cannot be easily reconfigured to meet new DHS security requirements,” the audit states. “The existence of these IT weaknesses leads to added dependency on other mitigating manual controls to be operating effectively at all times.”

DHS’s civilian agencies also had problems with IT controls, especially those related to access control, configuration management and security management, KPMG said. DHS officials agreed with the findings.

While performing the evaluation, auditors found that many government credit cards, user IDs and passwords for financial systems, and laptop PCs were unsecured. The auditors cited instances in which DHS employees did not follow policy when asked to provide their user names and made changes to financial systems without properly documenting them.

In April, Skinner released a report showing limited progress by the Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in correcting their control weaknesses.

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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