FISMA noncompliance leaves VA vulnerable

Audit finds Veterans Affairs Department has made strides, but is still not meeting FISMA directives with its information security program.

An inspector general audit has revealed that the Veterans Affairs Department’s failure to fully comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act has resulted in more than 15,000 outstanding security risks.

The fiscal year 2011 performance audit examined the extent to which VA’s information security program complied with FISMA requirements and applicable National Institute for Standards and Technology guidelines. Although VA has made progress in creating policies and procedures, certain practices fail to meet FISMA requirements.

Substantial inadequacies were discovered in areas related to access controls, configuration management controls, continuous monitoring, and services continuity practices. Also, VA hasn’t effectively implemented procedures to identify and remediate system security flaws on network devices, and database and server platforms and web applications.

Deficiencies were also found in VA’s reporting, managing, and closing plans of action and milestones (POA&M). More than 15,000 outstanding POA&M actions must be taken to remediate risks and beef up the agency’s information security posture, the IG said, or VA won’t be able to ensure the protection of its systems throughout their life cycle.

The IG report accentuated what has materialized as a larger compliance issue governmentwide. A March 7 review by the Office of Management and Budget showed that only seven out of 24 agencies are more than 90 percent compliant with FISMA directives.

NEXT STORY: Is mobile security a losing game?

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