December 9, 2003 5:03 PM PST

Feds get a 'D' in computer security

U.S. federal departments and agencies are showing some improvement in protecting their computer networks, but many--including the Department of Homeland Security--are failing, according to a government report released Tuesday.

The report, prepared for the House of Representatives' Committee on Government Reform, found that almost all agencies improved their computer-security grade since last year. However, several key federal departments continued to fail to adequately protect their networks and earned an "F."

"For too long now information security has taken a back seat in the collective conscience (sic) of our nation," said a statement from Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., the committee chairman. "We must come to the stark realization that a major Achilles heel is our computer networks."


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Overall, the government earned a "D" on this year's report card. In 2002, it was given an "F."

Two agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, slipped in the rankings since 2002. The newest department in the federal government, the Department of Homeland Security, got off to a bad start with an overall "F" for its computer security, despite the fact that securing the nation's network is part of its mission.

Davis took the private sector to task for poor security overall as well.

"The culture of our top-level CEOs in the private sector, and top executives in government, must be changed," he said in the statement. "We must get those at the very top, the decision makers, the ones accountable to the shareholders, the customers or the electorate, to recognize that lack of network security in an organization is a material weakness and one that deserves necessary resources and immediate action."

This year, two agencies earned an "A": The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the National Science Foundation. Ironically, a privately maintained nuclear reactor under the NRC's jurisdiction suffered an attack by the Slammer worm in early 2003.

The agencies rankings can be found on the Committee on Government Reform's Web site.

 

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