By Grant Gross
January 31, 2007
IDG News Service
The Cyber Security Industry Alliance has given the U.S. government D
grades on its cybersecurity efforts in 2006, and renewed its call for
Congress to pass a comprehensive data protection law in 2007.
The CSIA, a trade group representing cybersecurity vendors, gave the
U.S. government D grades in three areas: security of sensitive
information, security and reliability of critical infrastructure, and
federal government information assurance. (See the report in PDF format.
"Government needs to take these issues very seriously," said Liz
Gasster, the CSIA's acting executive director and general counsel.
Among the problems in 2006: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
reported a data breach involving the personal information of 26.5
million military veterans and family members. Other agencies also
reported multiple lost laptops containing personal information. The CSIA
called on agencies to notify citizens of data breaches.
After a rash of reported data breaches in early 2005, members of
Congress introduced multiple bills requiring companies with data
breaches to notify affected consumers. But a breach-notification law
failed to pass, partly because of jurisdictional fights between multiple
A comprehensive data security bill should include breach notification,
but also a requirement that all organizations holding sensitive data --
including private companies, government agencies, nonprofits, and
educational institutions -- use reasonable security standards, Gasster
said. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has taken action against several
companies, but a comprehensive law would give the FTC or another agency
broad jurisdiction to investigate data breaches, she said.
The CSIA is optimistic a comprehensive data breach law will pass in the
next year, even though it stalled in the last Congress, Gasster added.
Major data breaches continue to happen, and consumers will increase the
pressure on Congress to act, she predicted. In mid-January, retailer TJX
Companies Inc. reported a massive data breach.
"Consumers just are not going to put up with is," Gasster said.
Here's how the CSIA generated its government cybersecurity grades:
* Security of sensitive information, grade D: Congress ratified the
Council of Europe Convention on Cyber Crime, allowing the U.S. to work
with other signatories on cybersecurity investigations, but failed to
pass a comprehensive law to protect sensitive personal information.
* Security and resiliency of the critical information infrastructure,
grade D: The Department of Homeland Security appointed an assistant
secretary for cybersecurity and telecommunications and implemented
some cybersecurity program, but it hasnt offered a clear agenda for
its top cybersecurity research and development priorities or
established a survivable emergency coordination network to handle a
large-scale cybersecurity disaster.
* Federal information assurance, grade D: Government continues to offer
a "mixed bag of successes and failures," the CSIA said, with progress
within the White House Office of Management and Budget's enforcement
of cybersecurity directives and implementation of U.S. President
George Bush's Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, requiring
agencies to start issuing smart identification cards. But the
government needs to do a better job in several areas, including
security issues with telecommuting and releasing information on the
cost of cyberattacks, the CSIA said.
In addition to a comprehensive data protection bill, CSIA called for the
U.S. government to strengthen the power of agency chief information
officers and called on agencies to increase testing of cybersecurity
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