Critical Read

Is FISMA enough?

security graphic

What: A MeriTalk study titled "FISMA Fallout: The State of the Union," released Sept. 23. The study, underwritten by NetApp, polled 203 federal cyber-security professionals.

Why: With the increasing frequency and complexity of cyberattacks on federal networks, the study hints at the importance of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and why the framework might not be enough to protect agencies in the coming years. In the past 12 months, 64 percent of agencies responded to insider threats or leaks and 60 percent were targeted by non-state actors.

The vast majority of cyber-security professionals do not believe their existing security solutions will be sufficient over the next year, and they lack confidence in FISMA, with only half reporting that the law has improved security within their organizations. Half the experts surveyed said their agencies couldn't keep up with existing data loads crossing their network. And data loads are expected to grow 47 percent by 2015.

Eleven percent felt FISMA was antiquated, with more than a quarter of those surveyed suggesting new requirements, including continuous monitoring, should be added to its language. Even if that occurs, many challenges would remain in the form of stagnant cybersecurity budgets, the use of new cyber technology, end-user compliance and end-user training. Technological roadblocks were seen as the top barrier to improving federal cybersecurity, with policy, culture and leadership all viewed as other potential barriers.

Overall, the study suggests FISMA in its current form "may not be adequate" for the current threat environment.

Verbatim: Focusing on cyber security systems is not enough. Agencies need to look at the entire infrastructure – including network and data management – to create secure systems.

Download: Get the report.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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