Skinner: Strong protections lacking for DHS systems

Despite improvements, the Homeland Security Department still falls short in protecting its critical IT systems and data, according to a new report from the department's Inspector General Richard L. Skinner.

Among the shortcomings cited in the report are systems being accredited as secure without key documents or information, information security weaknesses failing to be addressed with plans of action, system weaknesses not being monitored and resolved in a timely manner and baseline security configurations not being applied to all systems.

As of July 31, DHS' chief information security officer reported that 530 out of the department's 603 operational systems had been certified and accredited to meet information security requirements. However, the inspector general found that only 486 systems should be considered certified and accredited.

For example, when the inspector general reviewed 28 departmental information technology systems that had been issued an authority to operate, 17 of the accreditations were judged to be incomplete because they are missing key documents or data, the report said.

The inspector general also found gaps in plans of action to correct known weaknesses. For example, three DHS components ? the Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Programs and Protection Directorate and the Science and Technology Directorate ? did not create action plans in response to weaknesses identified by the inspector general in fiscal 2007, the report said.

In addition, while FEMA and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency reported that they had implemented recommended security configurations, the inspector general found that the configurations were not fully implemented. Controls that were not fully in effect included those related to access control, identification management, system integrity and audit.

DHS officials agreed with the inspector general's five recommendations for improvement, the report said.

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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