Vulnerabilities / Threats

5/15/2018
08:30 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

US Government Cybersecurity at a Crossroads

Trump reportedly kills cybersecurity coordinator position, while many agencies continue to play catch-up in their defenses.

Amid a report today that the Trump White House plans to cut the administration's cybersecurity coordinator position altogether, new data shows how US federal government agencies continue to struggle to close security holes in their software.

Politico reported that the administration has eliminated the White House cybersecurity position, which was recently vacated by former head Rob Joyce, who has returned to the National Security Agency. Politico said it had obtained an email to the White House National Security Council staff from John Bolton aide Christine Samuelian: "The role of cyber coordinator will end," in an effort to "streamline authority" in the NSC, which includes two senior cybersecurity directors, she said in the email, according to Politico.

As of this posting, there was no official word from the White House. But Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., tweeted in response to the news report:

"Mr. President, if you really want to put America first, don’t cut the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator — the only person in the federal government tasked with delivering a coordinated, whole-of-government response to the growing cyber threats facing our nation."

According to the US Department of Homeland Security in its newly published cybersecurity strategy released today, cyber incidents reported to the DHS by federal agencies increased more than tenfold between 2006 and 2015, culminating in the Office of Personnel Management breach in 2015 that compromised personal data of 4 million employees and overall, 22 million people.

App Gap

So how are the feds doing security-wise to date? New software scan data from Veracode reflects a major element of security challenges for federal agencies: secure software. The scan data shows that federal agencies have the least secure applications of all industry sectors, with nearly half sporting cross-site scripting (XSS) flaws; 32%, SQL injection; and 48%, cryptographic flaws.

Unlike most industries, just 4% of federal apps are scanned weekly, 21% monthly, 24% quarterly, and about half, less than quarterly, Veracode found.

In the first scan of an app, there were 103.36 flaws per megabyte of code.

"How often a customer is testing an app gives us an understanding where they are" waterfall to DevOps-wise, says Chris Wysopal, CTO and co-founder of Veracode, which only handles nonclassified apps for the feds. With 4% of apps tested weekly by agencies, "that tells us there's not a lot of DevOps or Agile going on," Wysopal says.

Wysopal notes that the government has challenges that other industries do not. The technology sector not surprisingly fared best in Veracode's security scans. "They are culturally completely different: technology is focused on building … process, tooling, languages and DevOps and automating things," Wysopal says. "We see them building security in as part of the process of developing their software."

Government, on the other hand, approaches software development more from an audit perspective, he says. "There's huge room for improvement."

Agencies tend to run older systems for longer periods of time, mainly due to long procurement processes and budget constraints, for instance. "The biggest determinant of whether software has vulnerabilities is how old it is," he says.

Even with the relatively dire data, it's from agencies who are being proactive in their application security by opting for a scanning service, Wysopal notes. "Our data is slightly rosy" in that context of the government sector, he says.

Related Content:

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
JBUITRON770
100%
0%
JBUITRON770,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/24/2018 | 3:37:17 AM
The post of Cybersecurity Advisor should not have been eliminated
Hi,

In 2009, I finished a Master's Thesis on information security in the U.S. Government, one conclusion was that there should be a Cybersecurity Czar (or similar) in the government, answering directly to the President, with authority over the agencies in both branches, working in conjunction with the GAO (Government Accountability Office). Further reading after I finished the thesis revealed that at least two government-watching authorities were advising a similar office.

This recent move by the Trump Administration contradicts his election platform that supported strong information security\cybersecurity in the U.S. Government. Government agencies often rely on contractors to support their security posture, because there aren't enough security experts within the various branches. The same is true at the upper echelons of government. Our government needs advisors, and doing away with the cybersecurity advisor was a large step backward.

I anticipate additional steps in the wrong direction. I hope that such steps do not happen, yet this action seems like it may be part of a trend.

thanks,

Jan Buitron, MSIA, CISSP, Doctor of Computer Science candidate
It Takes an Average of 3 to 6 Months to Fill a Cybersecurity Job
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  3/12/2019
Cybercriminals Think Small to Earn Big
Dark Reading Staff 3/12/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: LOL  Hope this one wins
Current Issue
5 Emerging Cyber Threats to Watch for in 2019
Online attackers are constantly developing new, innovative ways to break into the enterprise. This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at five emerging attack trends and exploits your security team should look out for, along with helpful recommendations on how you can prevent your organization from falling victim.
Flash Poll
The State of Cyber Security Incident Response
The State of Cyber Security Incident Response
Organizations are responding to new threats with new processes for detecting and mitigating them. Here's a look at how the discipline of incident response is evolving.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-6149
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-18
An unquoted search path vulnerability was identified in Lenovo Dynamic Power Reduction Utility prior to version 2.2.2.0 that could allow a malicious user with local access to execute code with administrative privileges.
CVE-2018-15509
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-18
Five9 Agent Desktop Plus 10.0.70 has Incorrect Access Control (issue 2 of 2).
CVE-2018-20806
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-17
Phamm (aka PHP LDAP Virtual Hosting Manager) 0.6.8 allows XSS via the login page (the /public/main.php action parameter).
CVE-2019-5616
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-15
CircuitWerkes Sicon-8, a hardware device used for managing electrical devices, ships with a web-based front-end controller and implements an authentication mechanism in JavaScript that is run in the context of a user's web browser.
CVE-2018-17882
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-15
An Integer overflow vulnerability exists in the batchTransfer function of a smart contract implementation for CryptoBotsBattle (CBTB), an Ethereum token. This vulnerability could be used by an attacker to create an arbitrary amount of tokens for any user.