Oversight

IGs: DOT, Labor show cyber protection deficiencies

Shutterstock image (by Pavel Ignatov): Alert icon.

August has been a busy month for security reports, with agency inspectors general releasing assessments required under the Cybersecurity Act of 2015. The law mandates that IGs report to Congress on protections for agency computer systems that affect national security or contain personally identifiable information.

In two separate reports, auditors said they discovered deficiencies in the way the departments of Transportation and Labor secure their systems.

DOT's Office of Inspector General randomly selected 73 of the department's 162 computer systems and a national security system identified by the agency. Most of the systems had proper policies and practices for logical access controls -- the protocols that authorize user requests to access information systems. However, the national security system (the function of which is not specified in the report) lacked logical access policies and did not use multifactor authentication.

The OIG also found that although DOT has developed policies for multifactor authentication, only 11 sampled systems have implemented it for privileged users. Additionally, auditors determined that the department lacks sufficient cybersecurity safeguards for its systems. Specifically, the OIG said the department cannot detect unusual activities that might suggest data losses in almost half of the systems sampled, and it has not installed forensics capabilities in 70 of 73 examined systems.

Furthermore, auditors said DOT has not implemented digital rights management capabilities in any of the systems.

DOT officials responded by saying that the department planned to buy the necessary tools to address vulnerabilities and bolster its cybersecurity posture. However, they added that the department lacked the funding to fully implement digital rights management.

Labor's OIG examined 62 systems and found that they were largely compliant with the law and contained controls for protecting sensitive data, but auditors cited two exceptions.

First, two of the systems did not include multifactor authentication for privileged users. Labor officials said they have developed a plan of action to implement personal identity verification access on one of the systems but could not do so for the other.

Second, the department lacked automated tools that would provide the ability to track which applications are being accessed and by whom, to monitor its systems for illicit access and to manage digital rights.

Officials said they currently lacked the resources for the necessary automated tools.

Neither report included recommendations.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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