OMB: Security incidents jumped in 2007

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OMB: Security incidents jumped in 2007
By Mary Mosquera
Published on March 1, 2008


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Agencies reported twice as many information technology security
incidents in fiscal 2007 compared with the year before. The number of
incidents in six categories reached 12,986, compared with 5,146 in
2006, the Office of Management and Budget said. One of those
categories, unauthorized access, jumped to 2,321 in 2007 from 706 the
year before, OMB said in its report to Congress that was released
today. It contains the results of how agencies strengthened
information security and privacy protections under the Federal
Information Security Management Act.

The increase in unauthorized access is due mainly to reporting
required now for all instances where personally identifiable
information may have been revealed, the report states. Although OMB is
concerned by the increase in incident reporting, it's not altogether a
bad thing, said Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and
information technology.

"It's a good thing because agencies are sharing the information with
[the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team] the way they're supposed
to so we can take action in a comprehensive way," she said in a
briefing call with reporters. She expects that use of secure
identification cards required under Homeland Security Presidential
Directive 12 will help reduce security incidents because the cards
provide two-factor authentication.

Agencies improved incrementally the certification and accreditation of
their systems and testing of their contingency plans and security
controls in fiscal 2007. Agencies should focus this year on completing
testing of all their operational systems, providing oversight of
contractor systems and improving reporting of security incidents, the
report states.

Agencies have certified and accredited 92 percent of systems in 2007
compared with 88 percent the previous year and 47 percent five years
ago, the first year of reporting, OMB said in its report. The
governmentwide goal was 90 percent for 2007. NASA increased by 18
percent the number of systems it has certified and accredited, the
most improved agency performance. The Defense Department repeated its
6 percent increase from last year.

As an incentive to improved reporting, OMB has added beginning in
budget year 2009 the evaluation by the agency inspector general of the
quality of the agency's certification and accreditation process in
assigning projects and investments to OMB's Management Watch List. The
Health and Human Services Department and U.S. Agency for International
Development rated the highest for quality in 2007; the Defense
Department was the worst.

Agencies also should further concentrate on reducing systems in the
FISMA inventory that have no risk impact level category. Agencies
reported a total of 10,304 systems categorized by their risk impact
level of high, moderate, low or not categorized, OMB said. It is
important to know if systems have a high risk impact because they may
be critical to the agency's mission, Evans said. Of the 10,304 total
systems, 1,211 were ranked with a high risk impact. Of those, agencies
had certified and accredited 95 percent of them and tested 97 percent
for security controls, which means they have prioritized their
security needs. But only 77 percent have contingency plans that were
tested, the report said.

Agencies need to provide employees and contractors with more general
and job-specific security training. Agencies reported an overall
decrease in the percentage of employees receiving security awareness
training, from 91 percent in 2006 to 85 percent in 2007. Training for
employees with significant information security responsibilities
increased, however, from 86 percent to 90 percent.

To further embed IT security, agencies are preparing to move to a
common security configuration when they upgrade to the Microsoft XP
and Vista operating systems. Agencies are testing these configurations
in a nonproduction environment to identify adverse effects on system
functionality. They are also implementing and automating enforcement
when using this configuration and ensuring that new acquisitions use
these configurations.

The Information Systems Security Line of Business, led by the Homeland
Security Department, identifies common security processes and
technologies to improve security, reduce costs and increase
efficiency. Last November, 12 agencies began using security awareness
training provided by the shared-service centers, the Defense and State
departments and the Office of Personnel Management. Thirteen agencies
began using FISMA reporting services provided by the Justice
Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Agencies will fully report the number of employees trained under the
ISS LOB in the fiscal 2008 FISMA report, OMB said.

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