What Message Is The Government Sending With Serious Cyber-Vulnerabilities At Homeland Security?
Joseph Steinberg, Forbes
Special to In Homeland Security
A new report from its own Inspector General notes that the US Department of Homeland Security – the government division ostensibly responsible for ensuring cybersecurity throughout the nation – itself suffers from serious cyber-vulnerabilities.
The report notes that problems exist even on Top Secret systems, and that among other problems, the Department of Homeland Security commonly utilizes inadequate authentication, fails to properly track data and hence is unable to adequately monitor who is accessing what information, and runs seriously outdated software. Windows XP – an operating system that was released over twelve years ago and for which Microsoft plans to stop issuing security patches in the near future – continues to run on computers at DHS headquarters.
While these findings are alarming, they are not shocking. Earlier analysis had found other serious issues — including that DHS practices poor patch management, often failing to install fixes that correct known security vulnerabilities.
While the report claims that DHS “continues to improve and strengthen its information security program” some of the vulnerabilities that remain are glaring, and, would be, in the words of Senator Tom Coburn, the ranking member on the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, “obvious to any 13-year-old with a laptop.”
It is time for the government to lead by example; rapid, dramatic, and active change is needed. The current “Do as I say, not as I do” situation is not only putting our national security at risk, but also encouraging people not to take cybersecurity seriously. How can we possibly expect 13-year-olds with laptops to regularly install patches when the government body tasked with encouraging people to be vigilant does not?
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