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GAO – Agencies Need to Correct Weaknesses and Fully Implement Security Program

Federal Information Security: Agencies Need to Correct Weaknesses and Fully Implement Security Programs, GAO-15-714: Published: Sep 29, 2015. Publicly Released: Sep 29, 2015.

“Persistent weaknesses at 24 federal agencies illustrate the challenges they face in effectively applying information security policies and practices. Most agencies continue to have weaknesses in (1) limiting, preventing, and detecting inappropriate access to computer resources; (2) managing the configuration of software and hardware; (3) segregating duties to ensure that a single individual does not have control over all key aspects of a computer-related operation; (4) planning for continuity of operations in the event of a disaster or disruption; and (5) implementing agency-wide security management programs that are critical to identifying control deficiencies, resolving problems, and managing risks on an ongoing basis (see fig.). These deficiencies place critical information and information systems used to support the operations, assets, and personnel of federal agencies at risk, and can impair agencies’ efforts to fully implement effective information security programs. In prior reports, GAO and inspectors general have made hundreds of recommendations to agencies to address deficiencies in their information security controls and weaknesses in their programs, but many of these recommendations remain unimplemented. Federal agencies’ implementation in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 of requirements set by the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) was mixed. For example, most agencies had developed and documented policies and procedures for managing risk, providing security training, and taking remedial actions, among other things. However, each agency’s inspector general reported weaknesses in the processes used to implement FISMA requirements. In addition, to comply with FISMA’s annual reporting requirements, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provide guidance to the inspectors general on conducting and reporting agency evaluations. Nevertheless, GAO found that this guidance was not always complete, leading to inconsistent application by the inspectors general. For example, because it did not include criteria for making overall assessments, inspectors general inconsistently reported agency security performance.”

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