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Study: Most Federal Agencies Uncertain About Meeting FISMA Security Monitoring Deadlines

Only 22 percent of respondents say their agencies have deployed continuous monitoring technology

Federal government IT people are confused and uncertain about their agencies' abilities to meet federal guidelines for continuous monitoring of security posture, according to a study published today.

The RedSeal/Dimensional Research survey about FISMA continuous monitoring efforts indicates that more than half (55 percent) of federal IT professionals either don't believe their agencies will meet White House targets for implementing the technology or don't know whether they will meet them.

The deadline for continuous monitoring implementation originally was set for the end of fiscal 2011, which occurred in September. The deadline has since been extended to the end of fiscal 2012, but only 22 percent of respondents said their agencies have deployed the technology.

"Interestingly, the senior people that we surveyed -- the people who have the broadest view of the problem -- were the most pessimistic," says Mike Lloyd, CTO at RedSeal, which makes security monitoring tools. "The people who can see the whole picture are realizing how difficult continuous monitoring is and how much more is still to be done."

Most of the agencies represented in the survey -- which interviewed some 234 IT professionals at the recent GFIRST conference -- do not currently believe they have the tools necessary to meet the continuous monitoring deadlines or are unaware whether they do.

While the survey listed several different technologies that might be used for continuous monitoring, only one of them -- intrusion detection -- was cited as a solution by more than half of the respondents.

"What that says is that most of these people don't really know what technologies they're going to be using for continuous monitoring," Lloyd says. "There's no clear answer as to what tools will be used."

One of the problems with compliance could be the slushy deadlines and lack of strong penalties if agencies don't make the deadline, observers say.

"It’s extremely disappointing to see that even though the government issued these directives for continuous monitoring years ago, the people charged with implementation are not far enough along in acquiring or deploying the systems necessary to meet the requirements," says Major General John Casciano (USAF-Ret.), an adviser to RedSeal. "It might be time to take some people out behind the woodshed."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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