Risk
2/26/2008
01:49 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
50%
50%

Surprise, Surprise. Federal Agencies Not Protecting The Information They Collect About You

There are many policies, mandates, and laws that govern personally identifiable and financial information for federal agencies. So just how many federal agencies are living up to their responsibilities?

There are many policies, mandates, and laws that govern personally identifiable and financial information for federal agencies. So just how many federal agencies are living up to their responsibilities?You guessed it: not many.

When it comes to maintaining the privacy of information government agencies collect about U.S. citizenry, there are two overarching laws. These are the Privacy Act of 1974 as well as the E-Government Act of 2002. Each of these laws mandate that federal agencies protect personal information.

Other laws and mandates that come into play, depending on the nature of the agency and the information stored, include the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002, aka FISMA -- which sets forth a good baseline for security policies; the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, aka HIPAA; as well as the California Database Breach Disclosure law, which is largely known as SB 1386,and now similar laws are in force in more than 40 other states.

You'd think federal agencies would have clearly heard the message: citizens want their personal information maintained securely and responsibly. And so does the legislature. If they've heard the message, they certainly haven't listened. If there's one area where the federal government could set an example, you'd think it would be in implementing solid IT security. But it hasn't set such an example.

That's why in 2006, and once again last year, the Office of Management and Budget recapped federal agency IT security and privacy responsibilities that should be followed.

Unfortunately, here are the findings from the latest Government Accountability Office report on the status of federal agencies when it comes to protecting your personal information:

Of 24 major agencies, 22 had developed policies requiring personally identifiable information to be encrypted on mobile computers and devices. Fifteen of the 24 agencies had policies to use a "time-out" function for remote access and mobile devices, requiring user re-authentication after 30 minutes of inactivity.

Fewer agencies (11) had established policies to log computer-readable data extracts from databases holding sensitive information and erase the data within 90 days after extraction. Several agencies indicated that they were researching technical solutions to address these issues.

At first blush, these results might not seem so bad. After all, 22 of 24 agencies have developed "polices requiring personally identifiable information to be encrypted on mobile computers and devices."

That's a start. But the devil is in the implementation and enforcement of polices. Anyone can set a policy requiring data be encrypted. Just as anyone can set a policy to live within a budget, lose weight, quit smoking, or start exercising. Follow-through is the tough part.

And that's the rub here, according to the GAO: "Gaps in their [federal agency] policies and procedures reduced agencies' ability to protect personally identifiable information from improper disclosure."

Also, I'd like to pose a question: Why does citizen personally identifiable information need be on a notebook or "other mobile device" at all?

Is it too much to ask, when working with sensitive information, that workers and consultants actually sit at a workstation, in an office, where the network and system can be kept highly secured? And if they need remote access, why not use a thin device so the data stays in the database, and isn't left at a worksite ... or on a table in Starbucks.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Dark Reading Live EVENTS
INsecurity - For the Defenders of Enterprise Security
A Dark Reading Conference
While red team conferences focus primarily on new vulnerabilities and security researchers, INsecurity puts security execution, protection, and operations center stage. The primary speakers will be CISOs and leaders in security defense; the blue team will be the focus.
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
Security Vulnerabilities: The Next Wave
Just when you thought it was safe, researchers have unveiled a new round of IT security flaws. Is your enterprise ready?
Flash Poll
[Strategic Security Report] Assessing Cybersecurity Risk
[Strategic Security Report] Assessing Cybersecurity Risk
As cyber attackers become more sophisticated and enterprise defenses become more complex, many enterprises are faced with a complicated question: what is the risk of an IT security breach? This report delivers insight on how today's enterprises evaluate the risks they face. This report also offers a look at security professionals' concerns about a wide variety of threats, including cloud security, mobile security, and the Internet of Things.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.