Security Experts:

Defense Department Continuously Challenged on Cybersecurity

A recently published report from the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General shows that, while the Department has improved its security posture, it still faces challenges in managing cybersecurity.

The report represents a summary of 20 unclassified and 4 classified reports issued by the DoD oversight community and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018 (the summary work was made between May 2018 and December 2018).

Also addressing the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA) requirement for an annual evaluation of the agency’s information security program, the report aims to identify cybersecurity risk areas for DoD management based on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, as well as to identify open DoD cybersecurity recommendations.

The report (PDF) reveals that DoD Components implemented some corrective actions to improve system weaknesses identified by reports summarized in the cybersecurity summary report issued at the end of 2017, but also points out that DoD still faces cybersecurity challenges. 

Of the 159 recommendations made in the summarized unclassified reports, the DoD has taken action to address only 19. Of the 175 recommendations the DoD oversight community and the GAO made between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, 151 remained open as of September 30, 2018.

Furthermore, as of September 30, 2018, there were 266 open cybersecurity‑related recommendations (255 unclassified and 11 classified), some dating as far back as 2008, the report reveals.

“[T]he DoD needs to continue focusing on managing cybersecurity risks related to governance, asset management, information protection processes and procedures, identity management and access control, security continuous monitoring, detection processes, and communications,” the report also reads. 

This year, governance led in terms of number of identified weaknesses, and the report points out that DoD cannot ensure it can effectively identify and manage cybersecurity risk without proper governance. According to the report, the DoD continuously faces growing cyber threats and must ensure effective management of cybersecurity risks. 

“The DoD depends on cyberspace to support its operations and, therefore, must be able to secure its networks against attack or recover quickly if security measures fail. Cybersecurity risk management comprises the full range of activities undertaken to protect information and information technology from cyber threats such as unauthorized access and loss of data,” the report points out.

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