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GAO Criticizes Pentagon Over Cyber Hygiene Efforts

A report published this week by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that the Pentagon’s cyber hygiene initiatives have not been completed and in some cases no one is keeping track of their progress.

The GAO has reviewed three of the Department of Defense’s initiatives aimed at improving the security of its networks, including the 2015 Cybersecurity Culture and Compliance Initiative, the 2015 Cyber Discipline Implementation Plan, and the Cyber Awareness Challenge training.

The Cybersecurity Culture and Compliance Initiative focuses on 11 tasks related to education and training, cyber exercises, and changes that should be made to capabilities, authorities and network architectures.

This initiative should have been completed in fiscal year 2016, but GAO found that seven of the tasks still have not been fully implemented.

The Cyber Discipline Implementation Plan includes 17 tasks focused on addressing vulnerabilities in DoD networks, and ten of them that are overseen by the DoD chief information officer should have been implemented by the end of fiscal 2018. However, four of them still haven’t been implemented and no one kept track of the progress of the remaining seven tasks.

The GAO’s review also identified issues with the Cyber Awareness project, whose goal is to ensure that the DoD workforce is up to date on cyber threats and best practices. Investigators found that some of the Pentagon’s components have not kept track of who completed the training.

The DoD has also compiled lists of attack techniques that could pose a significant risk to its networks, and identified practices for protecting systems against these techniques. However, Pentagon officials admitted that no one has monitored the implementation of these practices.

“Overall, until DOD completes its cyber hygiene initiatives and ensures that cyber practices are implemented, the department will face an enhanced risk of successful attack,” the GAO said in its report.

The GAO has provided a series of recommendations for addressing the identified issues, but the Department of Defense only completely agrees with one of them.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.