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FCW Insider: Is IT security a drag on the mission?

Many readers were flabbergasted to hear that Energy Secretary Steven Chu suggested that his department is too fixated on security concerns.

As reported by FCW, Chu brought up the issue during a May 7 press conference about the department’s fiscal 2010 budget proposal. "Do we have the right balance between keeping our IT secure from viruses to how it compromises productivity?” Chu said.

He went on to say that “well-meaning people” in the chief information officer’s office and in the procurement and finance offices “whose job it is to protect the Department of Energy” actually hinder what the department can do.

Here is a sampling of what readers had to say (please note that comments have been edited for length and clarity):

* It takes 50 percent of an IT person's time, minimum, to secure "out of the box" systems and software suites to FIPS and DISA security standards. The problem is, some comptrollers do not know this, and when contracts exceeded original estimates by 100 percent, the contractors are blamed. Many in procurement do not know how to estimate costs for securing IT, and do not know until a year later what it costs, and by then, Congress is flipping out over cost overruns. Hence the press conference by an administration official who does not have the key elements firmly in his grasp.
-- IT security and database support

* This may be the scariest thing I have ever read. Yes, you balance security and accessibility in a business case analysis, but the more you come down on the accessibility side, the more accessibility you can grant to our adversaries and anyone who doesn't think that there are bad guys who would love to access out information is a fool.
-- Jim Maryland

* When executives have this caustic attitude toward security, it trickles down and soon departments don't call in the chief information security officer until a project is ready to be deployed. At that point everything has been developed without security in mind and must therefore be decoupled to inject proper controls. This takes time and holds up projects. Not like Energy has a stellar security record to date, so maybe Mr. Chu needs to actually talk to his CISO and give them more authority, rather than making them ineffective and marginalized.
-- Student Of Man

* One small step against bureaucracy, one giant leap for efficiency!
-- 'bout time

* This is so devastating to the CIO team and others who have worked hard to prevent further national embarrassment to Energy after the repeated security flaws of the past. Let’s see what the secretary says after the next national press story about his continued security problems. He obviously does not understand the national crisis this country faces as Energy computers and others across the nation are repeatedly hacked.
-- Fed Security Guy

* Fed Security Guy: I'm quite sure it is devastating, but deservedly so. The folks in DOE, feds and labs alike, have lost sight of how to balance safety/security/compliance and mission. Steven is hardly the first person to observe it (see 25 years of writing on this topic), but he is the first in a long time to try to do something about it. DOE needs a major attitude shift and this is just the beginning.
-- DOE Watcher

* This is a poor leadership example to set for a department that repeatedly has sacrificed security for "productivity." Instead of creating an adversarial culture between IT security and business ops, how about looking at your business processes and integrating organizational security into them from a foundational level? If DOE were to accomplish that, then IT security would no longer be viewed as being a "disabler of productivity," but a value add.
-- Private Sector Security Guy

Posted by John Stein Monroe on May 12, 2009 at 12:14 PM


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