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COMPUTER SECURITY INCIDENTS REPORTED BY U.S. FEDERAL AGENCIES INCREASE BY 650%

Source: Washington Business Journal

Posted on October 17, 2011

American Federal agencies reported more than 40,000 security incidents that placed sensitive information at risk during 2010, a 650 percent increase compared to five years ago, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. The watchdog agency also pointed to failures by agencies to properly oversee contractors that access federal computer systems and data.

Worth noting that the sharp increase can be attributed in part to better detection, according to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team that monitors cybersecurity for federal agencies, and that "security incidents" don't always equate to an all-out breach. (According to US-CERT, they include successful and failed attempts to gain unauthorized access to a system or its data, unwanted disruption, unauthorized use of a system for the processing or storage of data, and changes to system hardware, firmware, or software characteristics without the owner's knowledge.)

Still, GAO concluded in an October report that weaknesses in cybersecurity policies "continue to place the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive information and information systems at risk."

The four most prevalent types of security incidents reported to US-CERT during fiscal 2010 include the detection of malicious code, improper usage and unauthorized access, and detected anomolies that warrant further review.

GAO also criticized agencies for failure to properly oversee contractors that have access to sensitive computer systems and data, as reported by their inspectors general. For example, 10 agencies failed to fully develop or consistently implement policies to oversee systems operated on the agency's behalf by contractors, and eight agencies had systems owned or operated by contractors that didn't meet computer security requirements.

"Without effective programs for oversight of contractors," GAO reported, "agencies may not be aware of risks that could place federal information and operations at risk."

GAO recommended that the Office of Management and Budget establish cybersecurity performance targets for agencies and inspectors general.




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