CSIA Gives Government Poor Marks on Security

 
 
By Brian Prince  |  Posted 2007-01-31
 
 
 
The Cyber Security Industry Alliance in its latest annual report (PDF), released Jan. 31, is pressing for the federal government to be more aggressive in its efforts to protect sensitive information in cyberspace.

In its 2007 Agenda for U.S. Government Action, contained in the annual report, CSIA officials call for Congress and the Bush Administration to take specific actions to improve information security for citizens, industry and governments around the world.

"While the government has taken some positive steps forward to improve the state of information security, action has been decidedly mixed," Liz Gasster, acting executive director and general counsel of CSIA, based in Arlington, Va., said in a statement.

The Alliance gave the government low marks on a number of issues in its Federal Progress Report for 2006, which the group also released Jan. 31.

In that report, the group criticized the government for failing to pass a comprehensive law to protect sensitive personal information, not offering a clear agenda for the Department of Homeland Security in the area of cyber-security research and development priorities, and failing to establish an emergency coordination network to handle a large scale cyber-security disaster.

On the subject of federal information assurance, Alliance officials said the government "continues to offer a mixed bag of successes and failures, with progress within OMB [Office of Management and Budget] and implementation of HSPD-12, but much improvement is needed in the areas of using the power of procurement, resolving systemic telework issues, and releasing information on the cost of cyber-attacks."

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"CSIA commends the government for moving forward on several key initiatives, including the Senates ratification of the Council of Europes Convention on Cybercrime and the appointment of an Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Telecommunications," Gasster said. "However, we are discouraged by Congress inability to pass a comprehensive federal law to protect sensitive personal information, even in the face of more than 100 million Americans having their data records exposed. In 2007, CSIA will work even harder to urge swift action from Congress to pass this much-needed legislation."

Gartner analyst John Pescatore said while the CSIAs low grades are hard to argue against, its criticisms of the government are focused on the wrong areas and are meant to further the interest of Alliance members.

"For example, if every government agency was required to have all software providers test their products for known vulnerabilities before accepting the software, then government systems would be much more secure, their suppliers would have to develop better software, and fewer security products would be sold to protect the vulnerable products," he said. "[Thats] a good thing, unless you are the lobbyist for the security vendors."

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Also in the 2007 Agenda for U.S. Government Action, CSIA calls on the Bush administration and Congress to work together to strengthen the FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act). In addition, the DHS should establish cyber-security and telecommunications priorities that address situational awareness, emergency communications, and recovery and reconstitution, and ensure that appropriate funding is in place to support these programs, officials said.

The group also urged Congress and the Bush Administration to take direct action by passing a comprehensive federal law to secure sensitive personal information and notify consumers in case of a breach.

Pescatore said he was skeptical of Congress intent. "The election season was the main interruption in Congress passing a data protection law," he said. "We believe Congress will pass a law in 2007, but odds are high that it will serve to lower the bar on data protection below the level that many states have set. Congress has a tendency to be more business and lobbyist-friendly than many state legislatures."

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