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Security Flaws Found In DHS Network

An audit said the Department of Homeland Security's Active Directory use doesn't comply with security guidelines and leaves classified information vulnerable.

Federal auditors have found the connections that reach the Department of Homeland Security's network are not secure, making critical and classified information vulnerable.

A report by the Office of Inspector General said the DHS does not have the appropriate level of security on its network, nor is it properly validating the security of systems from outside the firewall that are connecting to it.

Auditors reviewed the Microsoft Windows Active Directory services the DHS uses to manage users, groups, systems, and services on its main network and found that "systems within the headquarters' enterprise Active Directory domain are not fully compliant with the department's security guidelines," according to the report.

Further, the Inspector General found that the DHS has nothing in place to ensure a certain level of security within its Active Directory implementation.

Specifically, auditors found fault with the way the Active Directory system is configured, according to the report. They said the DHS provides security controls for its own systems and users, but that they can be circumvented. Moreover, the DHS has allowed systems to connect to its network that do not comply with its published security policy.

"As a result, systems with vulnerabilities could allow unauthorized access and service disruption to the department's critical enterprise applications," said the report.

The Inspector General identified specific vulnerabilities to the DHS network due to its implementation of Active Directory that leave critical data and systems at risk.

Among them are the fact that local password policy is not set to DHS standards, the system is missing some security patches, and the system uses a protocol that is identified in DHS security policy as vulnerable.

The report makes three key recommendations to the DHS CIO to make its headquarters network more secure. They are: verify that security controls are implemented and configuration settings are compliant with DHS policy for systems that set up trusted connections with the headquarters network; address the current vulnerabilities on systems connected to Active Directory; and provide governance to ensure appropriate security measures are taken for all systems.

In the report, the DHS CIO office said it has begun taking steps to address the issues raised by the Inspector General's review.

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