Study Finds Basic Federal Cybersecurity Ignored

A recent report about the worst passwords revealed that "password" was toward the top of the list for many consumers. But it turns out that "password" is also a popular password for government employees, which weakens the nation's cybersecurity.

That's one of the conclusions of the Senate cybersecurity report, which reveals that government agency systems are open to attack because they don't update with the latest security patches, have old anti-virus programs, or because employees don't choose solid passwords.

"While politicians like to propose complex new regulations, massive new programs, and billions in new spending to improve cybersecurity," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the ranking Republican on the committee, "there are very basic -- and critically important -- precautions that could protect our infrastructure and our citizens' private information that we simply aren't doing."

Systemic Change Needed

We turned to Matthew Standart, manager of Threat Intelligence at HBGary, a technology security firm. He told us the findings are not surprising.

"They reflect the overall state of security in most, if not all, organizations. Attackers are motivated to get in and they will do so by following the path of least resistance," Standart said. "These paths, or vulnerabilities, are the result of poor policy and planning, lack of resources and integration, insufficient technology and execution, or overall plain human error and negligence."

As he sees it, government agencies should lead, because technology alone won't fix the problem. Systemic change may be needed from the top down to foster a culture that is security-minded and aware, he said.

"Actions carry risk, but risk is usually ignored or discredited due to convenience or complacency. Leaders convey a message that IT and IT Security are both cost centers and an inconvenience, when their strategic alignment should be perceived as a necessary and powerful means to do business," Standart said.

"Auditors...

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