By Alice Lipowicz
Contributing Staff Writer
The Secret Service is falling short in its efforts to protect
sensitive online data about its operations and in securing its IT
networks, according to two new reports from Homeland Security
Department inspector general Richard L. Skinner.
The IG's audit found inadequacies in the security controls for
sensitive data about protective operations contained in the Secret
Service Web System (SSWeb).
A redacted copy  of the audit is available on the IG's Web site.
Vulnerabilities were discovered in access controls, configuration
management procedures and continuity-of-operations safeguards, the
report said. In some cases, default passwords were not changed at the
time new software was installed.
"Due to these database security exposures, there is an increased risk
that unauthorized individuals could gain access to critical Secret
Service database resources and compromise the confidentiality,
integrity and availability of sensitive SSWeb data," the report said.
"Further[more], the Secret Service may not be able to recover SSWeb
following a disaster". Skinner recommended that the Secret Service
ensure adequate controls for user access, review systems to facilitate
the detection of inappropriate access, complete a configuration
management plan and develop an IT contingency plan.
The Secret Service generally agreed with the findings.
In a second report, the IG examined the Secret Service's security
controls for selected wire-based, sensitive but unclassified networks
and judged them to be ineffective.
"The Secret Service has not developed adequate policies and procedures
or fully implemented processes that address security testing,
monitoring network activities with audit trails and configuration and
patch management," according to this second report .
As a result, there is increased risk for unauthorized access to the
service's sensitive resources and data, the IG wrote.
In a third report  released today, the IG reviewed Customs and
Border Protection agency policies and procedures to secure its
networks and concluded that they were inadequate with respect to
security testing, monitoring network activities with audit trails and
patch management. In addition, controls are lacking "to ensure that
data residing on and traveling through its network resources is
properly protected," the report said.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer for Government Computer News. sister
publication Washington Technology.
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