Interior CDM effort 'immature,' says watchdog report

Shutterstock image (by Maksim Kabakou): pixelated shield, protection concept.

More than a year after it projected having Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation Phase 1 protections in place, the Interior Department still has work to do on its cybersecurity efforts, according to a partially redacted report released by the agency's inspector general on Oct. 17.

Auditors reviewed CDM implementation at the department's three largest bureaus -- the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the U.S. Geological Survey -- and found that all were ineffective at guarding high-value IT assets from potential loss or disruption, potentially leaving them open to "wide-reaching adverse effects."

Interior officials had set Sept. 30, 2014, as the implementation date of CDM Phase 1 but moved its operational goal by five years -- to 2019. According to the report, the bureaus either failed to implement all four CDM Phase 1 controls or implemented them incompletely or ineffectively.

Furthermore, Interior lacks "an accurate inventory of its computers; therefore, it can neither identify unauthorized and potentially rogue devices nor effectively manage, monitor and report the security status of all devices connected to its network," the report states.

The department has similar issues when it comes to software. Interior "failed to establish and implement approved software lists to ensure that unapproved, unsupported or potentially malicious software (i.e., malware) [was] not present on bureau computers," auditors wrote.The shortcomings were due to a mix of factors, with the decentralized nature of the department's components at their heart, auditors said. For instance, Interior's CIO did not require bureaus to follow recommended best practices for vulnerability detection or mitigation.

The IG made six recommendations aimed at strengthening the CDM program at the department. They include adding enterprise-level monitoring and reporting for all devices and software practices, establishing a departmentwide configuration baseline for computers and monitoring operating system settings to ensure that computers remain securely configured.

According to the report, the CIO's office has begun implementing the recommendations, but the issue of quarantining some critically vulnerable systems remains unresolved.

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, tele.com 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 mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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