GAO: More IT Security Resources to Commerce

The General Accounting Office is calling for the Commerce Department to beef up its information security by establishing a departmentwide program, along with sufficient resources and authority to implement it.

The recommendations are included in an Aug. 13 report to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In it, the GAO castigates the Commerce Department, saying the weaknesses in its systems are "significant and pervasive."

The GAO said the computer security failings at Commerce allow individuals to gain unauthorized access to read, copy, modify and delete sensitive economic, financial, personnel and confidential business data.

"At the time of our review, Commerce's chief information officer, who was responsible for information security throughout the department, acknowledged that the information security program was ineffective, but believed he had neither the authority nor adequate resources to effectively strengthen it," the report said.

The report is a follow up to testimony given by Robert Dacey, director of information security issues at GAO, to the committee Aug. 3.

The report is based on a two-month penetration test by the GAO of seven of the Commerce Departments agencies, including the secretary's office, from inside headquarters and from a remote location using the Internet.

There is such a level of interconnectivity between systems in Commerce Department agencies that systems also are put at risk by security shortcomings outside their host agency, the study found.

The agencies evaluated by the GAO have poor detection and response capabilities, the report said; there is a good likelihood that unauthorized users will not be detected in time to prevent or minimize damage.

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