US-VISIT security flaws puts sensitive data at risk, report finds

Security weaknesses in the Customs and Border Protection agency's U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program put sensitive personal information at risk, a Government Accountability Office report states.

Problems include poor identification and authentication practices, insufficient limits on access to US-VISIT information, bad network and physical security, inconsistent encryption and inadequate logging and user accountability.

"These weaknesses collectively increase the risk that unauthorized individuals could read, copy, delete, add and modify sensitive [and personally identifiable] information, and disrupt the operations of the US-VISIT program," GAO said in the Aug. 3 report.

The report also states that CBP did not perform certain actions to protect its information technology systems, such as updating interconnection agreements in security plans, testing and evaluating security controls, implementing incident-detection procedures and addressing privacy issues.

CBP provides limited assurance that US-VISIT will "achieve its goal of enhancing the security of U.S. citizens and its visitors," the report states.

Steven Pecinovsky, director of the Homeland Security Department's GAO/Office of Inspector General Liaison Office, concurred with GAO's findings and said CBP has taken steps to address some of the issues.

"CBP is currently in the process of upgrading its networks, systems and workstations," he said in a written response to the report. "Once these implementations are completed, many of the GAO findings will be closed."

Wade-Hahn Chan writes for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

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