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GAO: Defense agency not fully protecting information systems

Among the concerns: IS workers haven't gotten enough training

By Linda Rosencrance
October 12, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency isn't fully protecting its information systems, according to a report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) (download PDF).
The Defense Logistics Agency, or DLA, is responsible for providing food, fuel, medical supplies, clothing, spare parts for weapon systems and construction materials to support the country's military forces. The GAO had been asked to review the effectiveness of its operations -- including the DLA's information security program -- by members of the congressional Committee on Armed Services.
According to the report, the DLA has made some progress in implementing elements of its information security program but needs to do more.
Although the agency has established a central security management group and appointed a senior information security officer to manage the program, it has not consistently assessed risks to its systems from unauthorized access, use, disclosure or destruction of information, GAO officials said.
In addition, employees responsible for the agency's information security haven't gotten enough training; annual security testing and evaluation of management and operational controls haven't been done; and plans to mitigate known IS deficiencies haven't been completed, the GAO said.
The weaknesses in the agency's management and oversight of its security program "place DLA's information and information systems at risk," the agency concluded. It also said that until the DLA addresses the weaknesses and implements an agencywide information security program, it may not be able to protect its information or systems, according to the report.
The GAO made a number of recommendations, calling on the DLA to:

  • Consistently assess risks that could result from the unauthorized access, use, disclosure or destruction of information and information systems;

  • Provide training for employees with major responsibilities for information security;

  • Make sure that security training plans are updated and maintained;

  • Ensure that annual security evaluations include management, operational and technical controls of every information system in DLA's inventory.

In a written response to the GAO, Paul Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense, agreed with most of the GAO's recommendations and described the agency's efforts to address them. Brinkley said the DLA is working to fully implement an effective agencywide information security program, including publication of a Department of Defense manual that gives detailed guidance for training employees responsible for information security.
Defense Department officials disagreed with other recommendations, including the need to annually test the effectiveness of security controls for all systems. According to Brinkley, that recommendation amounts to annual recertification, and is neither practical nor cost-effective.
The GAO countered that it doesn't expect all information assurance controls for all systems to be evaluated annually, but to ensure that DLA's testingefforts include management, operational and technical controls of every information system in its inventory.

Read more about Security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.



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