Oversight

IG finds lapses in DHS IT security

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An audit of the Department of Homeland Security's fiscal 2015 information security practices noted some progress but found that DHS components did not maintain their security programs on a continuous, year-round basis.

The report from the DHS Office of Inspector General states that performance metrics related to security authorization, for example, peaked during the annual reporting period for the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 but dropped in subsequent months. That trend is an "indication that components are not complying with requirements to update and maintain systems'...documentation on a continuous basis," the report states.

The OIG also found what it considered to be other gaps in the department's information security reporting. For example, DHS does not include information on classified systems as part of a monthly security scorecard. Further, the U.S. Coast Guard reports its personal identity verification data to the Defense Department rather than via the required route through DHS.

DHS made progress in fiscal 2015, however, by adding reporting metrics for anti-phishing and malware defense and expanding the configuration management metric, the auditors found.

Nonetheless, the report also identifies deficiencies in key areas, including DHS' continuous monitoring program. In a review of eight DHS components, four did not perform network penetration testing, five systems were unable to block unauthorized software from being introduced to the network, and three components could not block unauthorized hardware.

Unless it rectifies such deficiencies, the auditors wrote, "the department cannot ensure that its systems are properly secured to protect sensitive information stored and processed in them."

The OIG recommended that DHS report classified system data on its monthly security scorecards and boost oversight of components' information security programs to ensure that they comply with requirements throughout the year.

DHS disagreed with the first recommendation, saying that FISMA guidance does not require submission of data on classified systems.

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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