The House Energy & Commerce Committee staff didn't wait for a report on FDA's cyber vulnerabilities to be completed to before it let the agency know there was a big potential problem.
Perhaps taking a page from the Department of Homeland Security's "If you see something, say something" playbook, the House Energy and Commerce Committee staff voiced it concerns to the Food and Drug Administration about a possible critical cyber vulnerability that turned up in a GAO audit before the assessment was completed.
The process of collaboration between the committee and the agency, it said, is "preferable to standard Congressional practices of public letters and hearings calling security officials to account."
The quick notification, according to a Sept. 29 statement from the Commerce Committee, resulted from a cybersecurity audit it requested from the Government Accountability Office in 2015 of the FDA's IT systems. In an update on that examination last January, the committee said GAO made it aware of "a potentially serious vulnerability had been found in FDA's network controls, one that could place the information and data in FDA's possession at severe risk if exploited."
Instead of waiting for the audit, which was part of a larger series of cybersecurity inspections looking into cybersecurity at Health and Human Services, the committee sounded the alarm at FDA. That agency, it said, was able to confirm and address the issue.
According to the committee, the vulnerability was one of many the audit turned up at FDA as the GAO completed its study. During the audit, committee staff worked with the FDA to let it know about weaknesses the study was bringing to light.
After the audit was complete, the committee said it asked FDA for its specific plans and scheduling to address vulnerabilities it exposed. It also advised FDA to tap the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team to search for any signs of compromise or unauthorized activity in its systems. Those subsequent CERT scans have not turned up nefarious activity, it said.
The quick "robust collaboration" between FDA and bipartisan committee staff worked so well to focus FDA' cybersecurity priorities and tighten up its network controls, the panel said, the process could be a model for future collaboration with federal agencies on cybersecurity issues.