SSA has problems with unauthorized software, IG says

Agency had 197 malware incidents in past year

The Social Security Administration doesn't do enough to protect its IT systems against unauthorized installation of software, SSA Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll said in a new report.

SSA employees and contractors must get approval to install non-agency software on SSA computers. However, the policy needs improvement and is not always followed, O’Carroll wrote in the report, dated Oct. 27.

SSA’s monitoring of agency software configurations was insufficient, coordination on software was lacking between local managers and central management, and no disciplinary action was taken against the employees responsible for seven security breaches in November 2009, the report states. SSA officials said discipline was unwarranted because employees downloaded malware unintentionally.


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SSA still has security and malware problems, the IG wrote. From Oct. 30, 2009, to Sept. 21, 2010, the agency had approximately 197 malware incidents in which an individual could have gained unauthorized access to or disabled SSA’s systems, the report states.

“Although we only reviewed seven software-related security incidents, the potential for a larger issue may exist if adequate controls are not implemented to prevent the installation of unauthorized software,” O’Carroll wrote.

The report recommends that SSA:

  • Consider revising its software approval policy to ensure that all software goes through a central management point, such as the Office of the CIO, and remind employees and contractors of the software policy.
  • Enforce the policy through disciplinary action, when appropriate.
  • Have all software monitoring directed by the Office of Telecommunications and Systems Operations with implementation by local managers.

SSA officials agreed with the recommendations.

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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