Oversight

IG: State lax on information security

Shutterstock image (by Sergey Nivens): Security concept, lock on a digital screen.

The State Department is not complying with federal information security standards and has not fully implemented a continuous monitoring strategy, according to a report issued by the agency's Office of Inspector General.

Many specifics in the report were redacted, but one key conclusion was that the department's CIO was "not properly positioned within the organization to ensure that the department's information security program is effective." Furthermore, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and other bureaus are not required to keep the CIO apprised of information security risks, the report states.

Steven Taylor, who has been the department's CIO since April 2013, oversees State's $1 billion IT budget. In a response to the OIG's report, he argued that the department is making progress on security.

Officials have taken "meaningful and deliberative steps to improve our ability to detect and deter potential attacks, implemented two-factor authenticated access for all general and privileged users domestically, and will complete the same for posts by early December," Taylor wrote.

He agreed with three of the report's four recommendations and deferred the only unredacted recommendation -- that the department rethink where its CIO is placed within the organization -- to the deputy secretary for management and resources, who agreed with the OIG's suggestion.The report acknowledges that the department has taken some measures to boost IT security since last fiscal year's assessment. Nonetheless, auditors found that State was not in compliance with requirements set by the Office of Management and Budget, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Federal Information Security Management Act, as updated in 2014.

Accounting firm Williams, Adley and Co.-DC carried out the audit of State's fiscal 2015 IT security practices on the OIG's behalf and concluded that State had "not effectively managed risk for all phases" of the development cycle of information systems.

This is the second OIG report in recent weeks that has identified flawed IT management practices at State. According to an earlier OIG report, an office charged with overseeing a $3.5 billion enterprise IT contract failed to validate certain performance metrics even as the department paid incentive fees to contractors on the project.

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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