DHS slams US gov network security

Better info sharing to plug info holes?


The US government is bad at protecting its networks and has neither the authority or manpower to respond to threats in real time.

The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team, which is responsible for securing the government's systems, got a roasting yesterday in a report (pdf) published by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general.

The detail will come as no surprise to outside security experts, who have long considered the US networks vulnerable to attack.

The report states that US-CERT must share information about threats and trends more quickly and in greater detail with other federal departments so they can better protect themselves.

But a big issue is that it can't tell these federal agencies to pull their finger out and fix holes in their networks. It doesn't have the enforcement authority. And because security data from intelligence agencies is classified at various levels, US-CERT has a problem in sharing it out.

There has been progress though. US-CERT, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, has created a “program to assist federal agencies in protecting their information technology systems against cyber threats. Specifically, it has facilitated cybersecurity information sharing with the public and private sectors through various working groups, issuing notices, bulletins, and reports, and web postings.”

There's also a unified operations centre, which includes US-CERT, to address threats and incidents. US-CERT has also developed a technical mentoring program to boost skills among its staff. But what staff? The report details US-CERT suffers from staff shortages (according to some reports it is working at less than half strength with just 45 out of 98 positions filled) and it can take up to a year to recruit anyone because of the security clearance process. ®

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