Oversight

BIS dinged on cyber posture by Commerce IG

Commerce Dept. HQ

The Bureau of Industry and Security failed to follow key security practices needed to continuously scan its most sensitive systems for weaknesses, according to an Oct. 16 report by an internal watchdog.

The inspector general of the Commerce Department, the bureau's parent agency, found that although officials generally followed the department's and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's guidelines, deficient vulnerability scanning practices increased the bureau's risk of cyberattack.

Also, the bureau did not have a complete inventory of all system components and did not clearly define responsibilities for fixing weaknesses.

"Not only did BIS not take corrective action to address basic IT security weaknesses for over five years, it also did not always develop" required plans of action using Commerce's cybersecurity assessment and management tool, which meant it effectively avoided department oversight, the report states.

The bureau is charged with some significant security functions, including policing the export of technologies that have both commercial and military applications, and it collaborates with the departments of Defense, Energy, Justice and Homeland Security and with the intelligence community to enforce export laws and aid in the prosecution of offenders.

Bureau officials appear to be taking the IG's recommendations to heart. In their response to the report, officials said they plan to develop an accurate inventory of system hardware and software, scan all components of the system for vulnerabilities, update the scanning tool regularly, ensure system patches are clearly documented, use credentials for scanning and frequently review reports.

In a memo included with the report, Eric Hirschhorn, undersecretary of Commerce for industry and security, wrote that since reviewing the recommendations, the bureau has centralized the monitoring of agency systems and configurations under one individual, who reports directly to Acting CIO Eddie Donnell. A final report on the bureau's cybersecurity is due by the end of the year.

About the Author

Bianca Spinosa is an Editorial Fellow at FCW.

Spinosa covers a variety of federal technology news for FCW including workforce development, women in tech, and the intersection of start-ups and agencies. Prior to joining FCW, she was a TV journalist for more than six years, reporting local news in Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina. Spinosa is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Writing at George Mason University, where she also teaches composition. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia.

Click here for previous articles by Spinosa, or connect with her on Twitter: @BSpinosa.


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