Cybersecurity

OMB releases cyber guidance for contractors

Cybersecurity research

The Office of Management and Budget has released draft guidance aimed at making it harder for hackers to access sensitive federal information via contractors, and making it easier for the government to know about it quickly when it happens.

The draft guidance -- covering security controls, incident reporting requirements and business due diligence, among other topics -- is an attempt by agencies to pool their resources to come up with an answer to a stubborn legal and policy challenge.

Hackers have exploited contractors’ cyber vulnerabilities in some of the biggest attacks on federal networks, including a pair of breaches of the Office of Personnel Management that compromised the personal information of 22 million people. Yet contractors trying to report a breach of their computer systems have struggled with a patchwork of confusing regulations, according to legal experts.

The OMB draft guidance acknowledged as much.

Agency contracts “often lack language governing when and how contractors are required to report information security incidents when they occur and when and how contractors should provide notification of breaches to affected individuals and third parties,” the document said. The draft guidance recommended that agency contracts lay out a timeline for incident reporting and detail the information that needs to be reported.

The guidance also sought to help agencies better understand the cybersecurity posture of their contractors. For example, the document would task the General Services Administration with creating a shared service to give agencies access to “data collected from voluntary contractor reporting, public records,” and publicly available commercial data.

OMB said it posted the draft document to GitHub to cast a wide net for feedback. Comments are due Sept. 10.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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