IG: Better security needed for key Coast Guard database

The Coast Guard does not have adequate database security controls for its Marine Information for Safety and Law Enforcement (MISLE) system, which contains sensitive but unclassified information for Coast Guard missions, according to a new report from Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard Skinner.

MISLE is a Web-based database system used to track marine safety and law-enforcement activities involving commercial and recreational vessels. It contains information on Coast Guard waterway details, vessel and facility inspection information and incident investigation. The Vessel Documentation System, which tracks vessel ownership, also is accessible to personnel using the MISLE.

Although the Coast Guard has implemented many controls for the system, it has not established effective procedures for monitoring user access, nor has it developed an adequate IT contingency plan, the report said. Furthermore, there are vulnerabilities on Coast Guard database servers related to access rights, password administration, configuration management and encryption.

"Due to these database security exposures, there is an increased risk that unauthorized individuals could gain access to critical Coast Guard database resources and compromise the confidentiality, integrity and availability of sensitive MISLE data," the report stated. "In addition, the Coast Guard may not be able to recover MISLE following a disaster."

The inspector general recommended the Coast Guard implement adequate controls and develop an IT contingency plan for the system, and apply corrective actions to all other databases as well. Coast Guard officials, in their response, agreed with most of the findings and recommendations.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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