DHS’ Security Better, but Needs Work: Report

Friday, January 20, 2017 @ 03:01 PM gHale

The governmental organization charged with ensure a strong cybersecurity across the nation, is improving its own security, but still has a ways to go, a new report said.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made improvements to its information security program, but there are still problems in several areas, according to the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

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Following the major breach affecting the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in 2015, DHS and its components were instructed to take measures to improve their cybersecurity infrastructure. The evaluation conducted by the OIG for the fiscal year 2016 found DHS has taken steps to enhance its information security program compared to the previous year.

However, as of August 2016, evaluators said they had still identified weaknesses that exposed classified and unclassified systems.

While agencies have started implementing secure configurations on their computers, as required by the United States Government Configuration Baseline USGCB initiative, there were still systems that were still behind.

Evaluators also found one classified server running Windows Server 2003, which no longer receives security updates since July 2015. Furthermore, in the case of Windows Server 2008 and Unix servers, only 74 percent and 65 percent, respectively, ended up configured properly.

Several workstations and servers had been running unpatched versions of Java, antivirus software, Internet Explorer, media players, Microsoft Office, and Adobe Acrobat and Reader. Investigators found some of these applications had not been updated since March 2011, potentially leaving DHS data at risk.

After the OPM breach, DHS received orders to implement stronger authentication mechanisms through the use of personal identity verification (PIV) cards for privileged and unprivileged access accounts. However, agencies such as Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Transport Security Administration (TSA) and the Coast Guard had still not been fully compliant at the time of the evaluation.

In its report, the OIG made a series of recommendations to help the DHS further strengthen its program.

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