GSA's internal IT is OK, watchdog says

Cybersecurity research

The General Services Administration's inspector general took a look under the hoods of some of the federal acquisition agency's biggest back office IT systems and found they were generally in line with federal rules and guidelines.

In review issued Aug. 10, GSA's Office of Inspector General said it assessed 18 of the agency's systems covered by Cybersecurity Act of 2015's rules, which require agency IGs report on the status of specific IT security management practices related to systems that could have a potential impact on national security or contain personally identifiable information.

The IG said the agency's policies and procedures for protecting access to those systems are "generally consistent" with government standards and requirements, and that it's using multi-factor authentication for 11 of 18 covered systems.

The report noted that multi-factor authentication was not in place for privileged user access for seven systems. GSA IT security officials explained various reasons for this – including contract limitations, prohibitive expense, obsolete systems and the existence of other controls to authenticate users. (National Institute for Standards and Technology guidelines require two-factor authentication at the system level.) However, users still must use two-factor authentication to gain access to the GSA network, which serves as a gateway to the individual systems.

GSA has implemented federal standard automated or manual processes to manage its inventory of software and licenses. It also requires its outside IT service provides to stick to its IT security policies and procedures, according to the report.

Among the protections GSA has implemented, the report said, are intrusion detection, firewalls and event management systems at the network level to find and stop data exfiltration. Additionally, it said GSA's Security Operations Center dashboard also helps track down malicious network activity, sending out notifications if traffic is bound for unauthorized internet recipients.

Outbound email filters also protect  social  security  numbers  in  Google Gmail and GSA's MailGate, said the report, and web application firewalls protect social security and credit card numbers from leaking out of its network.

Rounding out the picture, according to the report, are the agency's use of Cloudlock's cloud security-as-as-service, which  identifies and stops document oversharing in the Google environment, as well as software detection programs such as McAfee VirusScan Enterprise.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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