Justice Automation: Tighter Computer Security Needed

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-07-30.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

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                            Tighter Computer
                            Security Needed

                 RESTRICTED--dCliTr       to be released outside the
                 General Account@       Ofl’ice unless specifically
                 approved by the (IJ i VW:: Of ~ngIW+SiOnd
      United States
GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20648

      Information       Management         and
      Technology        Division


      July 30, 1990

      The Honorable Bob Wise
      Chairman, Subcommittee on Government Information,
        Justice, and Agriculture
      Committee on Government Operations
      House of Representatives

      Dear Mr. Chairman:

      This report responds to your July 6, 1989, request for information on
      the Department of Justice’s computer security program. Your request
      was prompted by our earlier review of Project EAGLE, an effort to supply
      office automation systems to Justice employees. In that review, we
      found that Justice lacked risk analyses and security plans for the EAGLE
      systems.’ Accordingly, you asked us to conduct a more extensive review
      to determine whether and how Justice is complying with the Computer
      Security Act of 1987, and other applicable laws and regulations in
      securing its computer systems.

      As agreed with your office, this review focused on security programs in
      Justice’s litigating organizations, which include 94 U.S. Attorney Offices
      and six divisions-Antitrust,    Civil, Civil Rights, Criminal, Land and Nat-
      ural Resources, and Tax. Because some of the organizations rely on com-
      puters at Justice’s main data center in Rockville, Maryland, to help
      perform their legal and prosecutorial functions, we also conducted a lim-
      ited assessment of security conditions at this facility.

      Justice’s litigating organizations rely on computer systems to process a
      variety of highly sensitive information. This information includes the
      names of defendants, witnesses, informants, and undercover law
      enforcement officials cited in grand jury proceedings, witness identifica-
      tion programs, and criminal investigations. The dependence on computer
      systems to process this information presents considerable risks. If the
      systems fail to protect the information from unauthorized access and
      disclosure, individuals could be harmed and public trust eroded. Justice
      must ensure, therefore, that its computer systems have stringent
      security provisions and effective oversight.

      ‘Justice Automation: Security Risk Analyses and Plans for Project EAGLE Not Yet Prepared (GAO/
           1- 89 - 65 , Sept. 19, 1989).

      Page 1                                      GAO/IMTEGSOSS      Automation:   Computer   Security

                   Justice is not ensuring that its highly sensitive computer systems are
Results in Brief   adequately protected. We identified many disturbing weaknesses in
                   existing security which, if not corrected, could severely compromise
                   both the computer systems and the sensitive information they process.
                   These weaknesses reflect a lack of effective leadership and oversight by
                   the Justice Management Division, headed by the Assistant Attorney
                   General for Administration. This division is responsible for developing
                   and directing Justice’s computer security programs.

                   Within Justice’s seven litigating organizations, for example, we found
                   that contingency plans necessary if services are disrupted either had not
                   been prepared or were not tested, and that no mandatory computer
                   security training was being provided for all employees. We also identi-
                   fied several material weaknesses in physical and other operational
                   security at Justice’s main data center in Rockville, Maryland. For
                   example, access to the data center was not properly controlled, and
                   software documentation and utility programs that could be used to
                   bypass normal system security safeguards were available to all
                   employees having access to the data center.

                   Department security staff in the Justice Management Division do not
                   monitor the organizations’ compliance with computer security require-
                   ments, or certify sensitive system safeguards as required by federal reg-
                   ulations. Justice management and security officials told us there are not
                   enough staff to oversee the computer security practices of each

                   We believe the extensive weaknesses we identified are serious enough to
                   be reported under the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act of 1982
                   (31 U.S.C. 3612 (1982)). This act states that agencies must establish
                   internal controls, and annually report material weaknesses and the
                   status of corrective actions taken.

                   This report contains recommendations to the Attorney General to
                   (1) ensure that the computer security weaknesses we found are properly
                   corrected, (2) strengthen the Justice Management Division’s leadership
                   and oversight of departmental computer security programs, and
                   (3) report the computer security deficiencies as a material internal con-
                   trol weakness under the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act.

                   Page 2                            GAO/IMTEG9069   Automation:   Computer   Security

             Through its litigating organizations, Justice represents the government
Background   in federal legal matters that include performing investigations, con-
             ducting grand jury proceedings, and preparing and trying cases and
             appeals. To perform these functions, the litigating organizations rely on
             their computer systems to process a variety of sensitive information,
             including the names of defendants, witnesses, informants, and under-
             cover law enforcement officials. Some litigating organizations also use
             Justice’s main data center in Rockville, Maryland, to process sensitive
             information. Justice moved to this data center in September 1989, in
             part to improve the security of its computer operations. Approximately
             18,000 users, including employees in the Criminal and Land and Natural
             Resources Divisions, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Bureau of
             Prisons, access the data center through dedicated leased lines, dial-up
             lines, and commercial computer networks.

             Because the computer systems contain sensitive information, they are
             subject to the requirements of the Computer Security Act of 1987 (PL
             100-235). The Computer Security Act requires federal agencies to iden-
             tify and develop security plans for computer systems that they desig-
             nate as containing sensitive information,” and to establish mandatory
             computer security training to make employees aware of their specific
             responsibilities and how to fulfill them.

             The Federal Information Resources Management Regulation (FIHMR) (41
             C.F.R. part 201-7) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) policies:)
             further require agencies to protect access to and operation of computer
             systems by (1) conducting risk analyses, (2) preparing and testing con-
             tingency plans, and (3) conducting security certifications and audits,

             Justice directives establish uniform policy for protecting computer sys-
             tems and classified or sensitive information stored, processed, or han-
             dled by these systems, and assign responsibilities for implementing

             % response to the Computer Security Act of 1987, Justice’s litigating organizations identified and
             prepared security plans for 19 computer systems that they designated as containing sensitive

             i”Office of Management and Budget Circular No. A-130, App. III., Management of Federal Information
             Resources, Dec. 12, 1986.

             Page 3                                         GAO/IMTJ%90-69      Automation:   Computer   Security


                          computer security.3 The department security staff in the Justice Man-
                          agement Division is responsible for establishing and enforcing compli-
                          ance with Justice’s computer security programs. This responsibility
                          includes ensuring the adequacy of security safeguards in each

                          Our review identified many disturbing weaknesses in computer security
Computer Security         programs being implemented by Justice’s litigating organizations. Collec-
WeaknessesIdentified      tively, these weaknesses pose a significant risk to the integrity of com-
in the Litigating         puter systems and sensitive information in the organizations.

Risk Analyses for Three   Three of Justice’s litigating organizations-the   U.S. Attorney Offices
Organizations May Not     and Criminal and Tax Divisions -have begun performing risk analyses
                          that may not adequately assess computer security vulnerabilities and
Adequately Assess         threats. Risk analyses are a critical step for ensuring that adequate
Security Deficiencies     security safeguards exist in these organizations.

                          In our September 1989 report on Project EAGLE, we pointed out that the
                          U.S. Attorney Offices and Criminal and Tax Divisions planned to acquire
                          EAGLE systems. At that time, however, we noted that these organizations
                          had not conducted risk analyses to ensure that sensitive information in
                          the EAGLE systems would be adequately protected against unauthorized
                          access and disclosure. We pointed out, and Justice officials agreed, that
                          risk analyses should be performed before installing the EAGLE systems.

                          During this review, these organizations began performing risk analyses
                          for their EAGLE systems, using automated risk analysis software.5 Justice
                          officials explained that this software will provide a simple and inexpen-
                          sive approach to assessing risks. However, we identified various limita-
                          tions in the software, which may prevent an adequate assessment of
                          vulnerabilities and threats:

                          41J.S.Department of Justice, Automated Information Systems Security (DOJ 2640.2B), Nov. 16, 1988;
                          and U.S. Department of Justice, Security Programs and Responsibilities, (D0J 2600.2B), July 10,

                          “This software is a commercially marketed survey, on microcomputer diskette, which is designed to
                          be completed by a user of the computer system under review. It is used to collect baseline information
                          about the computer and its environment, and identify security measures in place.

                          Page 4                                         GAO/IMTEG9069        Automation:   Computer    Security
. The software determines whether computer security controls exist, but
  does not measure the quality of the controls. For example, the risk anal-
  ysis survey asks if a contingency plan has been prepared, but does not
  evaluate the plan’s adequacy. Thus, a poorly prepared plan is consid-
  ered the same as a well-designed plan. Without measuring quality, Jus-
  tice may obtain misleading assessments of actual security conditions in
  its organizations.
. The software is designed to provide only a general assessment of
  security risks. To perform the assessment, Justice officials specified a
  limited number of security safeguards that the risk analysis survey will
  look for in each facility. However, the assessment will not consider any
  other safeguards not specified on the survey. For example, the software
  will not assess network controls and, therefore, will not measure the
  vulnerability of a networked system. The basic EAGLE architecture fea-
  tures microcomputers connected via a local area network to minicom-
  puters. A risk analysis should examine the total security posture of a
  facility to point out existing vulnerabilities and risks. It then assembles
  the basic facts necessary for selecting the required protective measures.
  By following this generalized approach, Justice stands to overlook crit-
  ical security vulnerabilities and risks, and may not recognize the need
  for protective measures that might be found during a more extensive
. Justice, in using this software, cannot estimate the cost of potential
  damages resulting from unfavorable events, or their likelihood of occur-
  rence, because the software does not provide this capability. This infor-
  mation is fundamental to deciding how much to spend on computer
  security, as the cost of security measures should relate to the potential
  losses they protect against. Moreover, the aim of a risk analysis is to
  help management strike an economic balance between the impact of
  risks and the cost of protective measures.
. Justice has not sufficiently tested the software to ensure that it will pro-
  vide a reliable risk assessment. Such a test would include, for example,
  comparing the results obtained using the software to results obtained
  from a traditional, nonautomated analysis of security risks. However,
  Justice intends to use only this software to assess security in the three
  organizations. According to an official at the National Institute of Stan-
  dards and Technology, an automated risk analysis such as the one being
  performed by Justice is designed to complement, rather than replace,
  other traditional riskanalysis techniques. By relying solely on this
  software, Justice cannot be certain that all computer security vulnera-
  bilities and risks will be detected. Consequently, threats may be under-
  stated and sensitive information may be compromised,

  Page 6                             GAO/MTEC-90-69   Automation:   Computer   Security


                               We are also concerned about separation of duties because the same Jus-
                               tice officials responsible for managing computer security in these orga-
                               nizations also will be responsible for perform ing the risk assessments
                               and analyzing the results. A separation of duties, such as by requiring
                               officials outside these organizations to perform independent assess-
                               ments, would better ensure the integrity of the risk analysis results.

Security Deficiencies in       Four of Justice’s litigating organizations-the  Antitrust, Civil, Civil
Four Organizations N‘eed       Rights, and Land and Natural Resources Divisions-completed risk
                               analyses during our review. Each of the analyses pointed out serious
to Be Corrected                computer security vulnerabilities that need to be corrected. Among
                               other things, the analyses revealed that Justice

                           . had not conducted periodic audits and reviews of sensitive applications
                             and certified the adequacy of security safeguards,
                           l did not have a formal automated data processing (ADP) security aware-
                             ness training program , and
                           . had not adequately trained its information and computer security
                             officers to perform their security duties.

                               Security officials in these organizations corrected some of the deficien-
                               cies identified in the risk analyses, such as installing fire alarms in com-
                               puter rooms and labeling communications equipment. However, other
                               deficiencies, including those mentioned above, need to be addressed by
                               the department security staff in the Justice Management Division. At
                               the time of our review, the department security staff were unaware of
                               the need to address these deficiencies because they had not reviewed the
                               risk analyses.

Contingency Plans Not          W ithin the litigating organizations, we found that contingency plans
Prepared or Tested             documenting emergency response, backup, and recovery procedures
                               either had not been prepared or were not tested to ensure that data
                               processing would continue if services were disrupted. As previously
                               noted, FIRMR and OMB policies require agencies to develop and maintain
                               contingency plans to provide continuity of data processing if normal
                               operations are interrupted. Justice’s security directive further requires
                               the organizations to review, modify, and test their contingency plans at
                               least once every year. Given recent hostile attacks on Justice organiza-
                               tions, such as the March 1990 firebombing of a Drug Enforcement
                               Administration office in Fort Myers, Florida, Justice needs to establish
                               effective procedures for continuing operations.

                               Page 6                             GAO/IMTEC-9989   Automation:   Computer   Security

                        At the time of our review, two organizations-the Tax Division and U.S.
                        Attorney Offices -had not prepared contingency plans for their com-
                        puter systems. Officials in these organizations recognized the require-
                        ment for preparing and maintaining contingency plans, but had not yet
                        established timeframes for doing so. One organization-the      Antitrust
                        Division-initiated,  but had not completed, preparation of a contingency
                        plan. According to a division official, the plan is expected to be com-
                        pleted by October 1990.

                        Four organizations -the Civil, Civil Rights, Criminal, and Land and Nat-
                        ural Resources Divisions-completed       contingency plans during our
                        review. However, none of the plans met federal guidelines requiring
                        detailed emergency response, backup, and recovery procedures. For
                        example, these plans lacked such details as names and telephone num-
                        bers of key personnel to be notified during an emergency, lists of critical
                        hardware and software needed, and procedures for switching to a
                        backup processing system. Moreover, none of the organizations tested
                        their contingency plans to ensure their effectiveness during a disaster.
                        Officials in one organization, the Civil Division, explained that their
                        practice is to study the effectiveness of the plan when an actual problem
                        occurs. By not maintaining and regularly testing their contingency
                        plans, the litigating organizations risk prolonged service disruptions
                        from natural disasters, power outages, fire, or other unplanned events,
                        and increase the potential for compromising sensitive information.

Security Training Not   At the time of our review, none of Justice’s litigating organizations had
Provided                established mandatory computer security training for their employees.
                        The Computer Security Act of 1987 requires each agency to implement a
                        computer security training program to ensure that all employees are
                        aware of their responsibilities and how to fulfill them.

                        With the exception of some new system users, who generally receive
                        security awareness briefings as part of their introductory system
                        training, we found little evidence that employees are being trained in
                        computer security. Officials responsible for computer security in three
                        of the organizations explained that they do not have enough funds to
                        provide training courses, and as an alternative rely on periodic bulletins
                        and memorandums to keep employees informed of security policies and
                        procedures. Without identifying the frequency and levels of training
                        needed, and providing appropriate computer security training courses to
                        meet these needs, Justice cannot be assured that its employees are

                        Page 7                            GAO/E+lTEC9969   Automation:   Computer   Security

                           aware of their responsibilities, and are capable of detectin.g and
                           preventing computer security violations.

                           Our limited assessment of Justice’s main data center in Rockville, Mary-
Computer Security          land, identified several material security weaknesses that could
WeaknessesIdentified        d
                           a versely affect the center’s operations and pose significant risks to
at Justice’s Main Data     sensitive data used by the litigating organizations. These weaknesses are
                           particularly significant since the data center is, according to Justice, a
Center                     new, state-of-the-art facility. Justice moved its main data center opera-
                           tions from an older facility in September 1989, as one of several actions
                           taken to improve the security of its computer operations. However,
                           some of the same security weaknesses identified at the old data center
                           still exist at the new facility.

Physical Security          We observed inadequate physical security provisions, including a lack of
Inadequate                 surveillance devices such as cameras or motion sensors, to monitor
                           activities in critical areas of the data center. Guards were not positioned
                           to visually survey activities in the center, and video monitors, where
                           used, lacked recording mechanisms to store and replay information
                           should it be needed. An electronic card key device that records when
                           employees enter and exit the data center was inadequate in that it did
                           not record, store, and generate reports on activities of card holders;
                           therefore, center officials could not reconstruct these events if they
                           needed to investigate a security problem.

                           We also found magnetic tapes containing sensitive data stored in an
                           open area of the data center and directly along the path of individuals
                           entering and exiting the center through the main door. In addition, we
                           found numerous other uncontrolled entrances to the center through
                           which individuals could easily remove sensitive data. These weaknesses
                           decrease Justice’s ability to monitor activities of the data center staff
                           and detect unauthorized access to or destruction of critical computer
                           systems and sensitive information.

Contingency Planning and   We observed a lack of effective contingency planning and risk assess-
Risk Assessment            ment at the main data center, rendering the center’s operations vulner-
                           able to disasters and prolonged disruptions of service. Specifically, at
Inadequate $               the time of our review, the data center operated without a contingency
                           plan detailing emergency response, backup, and recovery procedures.
                           According to the director of the data center, a contingency plan has been

                           Page 8                             GAO/IMTElG9089   Automation:   Computer   Security
                         outlined; however, the plan is not scheduled for completion until Sep-
                         tember 1991.

                         A risk assessment of the data center, completed by its staff in Sep-
                         tember 1989, did not fully measure computer security vulnerabilities
                         and threats, For example, in outlining potential threats and their
                         probabilities of occurrence, the assessment did not consider threats that
                         may be made by data center employees. Moreover, in analyzing physical
                         security vulnerabilities, the assessment did not address critical features
                         such as the lack of cameras, security of data center entrances, and
                         internal physical accessibility to sensitive computer equipment and
                         data. Risks associated with the lack of adequate contingency planning
                         and continuity-of-operations procedures also were not considered. By
                         not considering these vulnerabilities and threats, Justice may have over-
                         looked critical factors that could compromise security at the data center.

Computer Operation       We observed a number of security weaknesses in the data center’s com-
Weaknesses               puter operations. For example, systems programmers with extensive
                         knowledge of hardware and operating procedures had unescorted access
                         to the data center and were capable of issuing critical computer com-
                         mands that should have been limited to computer operators. In addition,
                         alternate consoles, which could be used to access sensitive computer
                         systems, were located in unsecured and unmonitored areas of the data
                         center. Software documentation and utility programs that could be used
                         to bypass normal system safeguards were available to all employees
                         having access to the data center. These security weaknesses increase the
                         potential for unauthorized access to and alteration of data files and
                         software, and disclosure of sensitive information.

Security WeaknessesAre   The security weaknesses we identified at Justice’s main data center
Long-standing            reflect long-standing concerns that need to be addressed. Many of these
                         types of weaknesses were identified during Justice’s internal audit of its
                         prior data center in 1986, well before its move to the new facility. The
                         audit report recommended among other things that Justice (1) develop
                         contingency plans to ensure continuity of data processing operations,
                         (2) upgrade the card key access control system, and (3) establish appro-
                         priate access restrictions to utility programs. Justice agreed that the
                         weaknesses identified highlighted the need for increased attention and
                         oversight by high-level management in ensuring that departmental com-
                         puter resources are operated in a secure and effective manner.

                         Page 9                            GAO/IMTEG90-69   Automation:   Computer   Security
                       In discussing security conditions at the main data center, the director of
                       the center agreed that many of these conditions currently exist, but did
                       not agree that they pose a considerable risk to the center’s operations
                       and to the compromise of sensitive data processed there. Management
                       and security staff in the Justice Management Division told us they
                       intend to correct the data center security problems. According to these
                       officials, Justice has asked the National Security Agency to survey
                       security at the data center and recommend improvements, in anticipa-
                       tion of Justice’s future plans to process classified information at this

                       The computer security weaknesses we identified reflect a lack of ade-
Inadequate Oversight   quate leadership and oversight for computer security operations by
Contributes to         department security staff in the Justice Management Division. The
Computer Security      department security staff is not performing several critical enforcement
                       functions to ensure that adequate computer security controls exist in
Deficiencies           the litigating organizations and main data center. For example, the
                       security staff does not independently audit and evaluate computer
                       security in these organizations or certify the adequacy of their safe-
                       guards. FIRMR and OMB policies require agencies to periodically audit and
                       evaluate the adequacy of security safeguards for each sensitive

                       In addition, the security staff has provided the organizations only min-
                       imal guidance on training employees to fulfill their computer security
                       responsibilities, and does not have information to assure itself that all
                       Justice employees are receiving the necessary training required by the
                       Computer Security Act. In response to the act, the Justice Management
                       Division prepared and disseminated memorandums suggesting various
                       actions the organizations could take to fulfill their training needs. How-
                       ever, the security staff has not followed up to ensure that each organiza-
                       tion has implemented a training program, and computer security
                       training requirements have not been incorporated in Justice’s security

                       In discussing the need for improved leadership and oversight, the
                       department security officer explained that with only three staff cur-
                       rently assigned, he does not have enough staff to perform the required
                       oversight and training functions. According to the department security
                       officer, positions and funding to support increases in the security staff
                       were requested in fiscal years 1989 and 1990. However, an official over-
                       seeing Justice’s budget told us that these requests were not approved by

                       Page 10                           GAO/IMTEG99-99   Automation:   Computer   Security
the Office of Management and Budget. Nonetheless, management and
security staff in the Justice Management Division believed security con-
trols in the litigating organizations were effective for several reasons.
First, they believed that Justice employees, having been selected on the
basis of background investigations and security clearances, are gener-
ally honest and perform in an ethical and trustworthy manner. Second,
the officials explained that each organization is required to annually
review and report its computer security status to the department
security staff, and certify the adequacy of its security safeguards. These
requirements, in the opinion of Justice officials, force the organizations
to (1) perform an accurate assessment, and (2) ensure that adequate
controls are in place. Third, although the officials did not know how
many computer security violations had occurred in these organizations,
they told us few violations have been reported to the security staff. The
department security officer believed a low number of reported viola-
tions was evidence that existing security controls are an effective

We do not believe these reasons justify the department security staff’s
failure to comply with Justice’s directives requiring it to monitor and
enforce security policies. As pointed out earlier in this report, Justice’s
litigating organizations and main data center have not adhered to
various federal requirements for ensuring that sensitive computer sys-
tems are adequately protected. Although employee honesty and integ-
rity are critical to protecting organizational assets, these traits should
not and cannot be relied upon as a primary security control, and as a
substitute for appropriate operational and system safeguards. Given
that the main data center can be accessed through dial-up lines and com-
mercial computer networks, Justice also needs to consider those threats
that could be generated by outsiders gaining unauthorized access to sen-
sitive systems. For example, dial-up lines and commercial computer net-
works may enable remote users to introduce viruses and other
disruptive software (e.g., time bombs) into vulnerable computer

In addition, the practice of requiring organizations to evaluate and cer-
tify the adequacy of their computer security safeguards does not in
itself guarantee an adequate assessment of Justice’s security. Our
review found, for example, that none of the litigating organizations had
performed such certifications, although the department security officer
stated that this responsibility had been delegated to them. Furthermore,
even though the organizations submitted annual status reports docu-
menting their security, the department security staff concluded from its

Page 11                           GAO/IMTEG90-69   Automation:   Computer   Security

                       review of the reports that it could not determine whether all facilities
                       had adequate security, without performing on-site assessments of each
                       facility’s security program. In addition, such evaluations, without ben-
                       efit of an independent assessment by the department security staff, do
                       not adhere to federal requirements. Federal regulations stipulate that
                       persons independent of the facility users and management must conduct
                       periodic audits and evaluations of security safeguards for each sensitive

                       Justice management and security staff also should not assume that a
                       low number of reported computer security violations proves there is
                       effective security in the organizations. According to the department
                       security officer, there is no formal system for specifically tracking com-
                       puter security violations, and the security staff were unable to provide
                       documentation and specific details on the few incidents they said had
                       occurred. In addition, according to the department security officer, Jus-
                       tice cannot be certain that all identified security violations are reported.
                       The department security officer and an official overseeing reviews of
                       employee misconduct in Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility
                       told us that many staff may not have the technical knowledge to recog-
                       nize violations when they occur. Moreover, skillful, unauthorized users
                       with valid passwords and prescribed procedures could enter and exit a
                       computer system without ever being detected. This danger is particu-
                       larly critical at Justice’s main data center, where dial-up lines and com-
                       mercial computer networks provide the capability for unauthorized
                       access to sensitive information without detection.

                       The computer security weaknesses identified during our review
Security Weaknesses    decrease Justice’s ability to provide adequate protection of highly sensi-
Need to Be Disclosed   tive computer systems and information. These types of weaknesses
Under the Financial    require review, disclosure, and corrective actions under the provisions
                       of the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act (31 U.S.C. 3512
Integrity Act          (1982)). Under this act, federal department and agency managers are
                       required to evaluate whether internal control systems have weaknesses
                       that can lead to fraud, waste, and abuse in government operations, The
                       act is a key mechanism that the Congress has put in place to ensure that
                       management controls, including those over automation efforts, are
                       effective, and to hold managers accountable for correcting identified
                       deficiencies. Federal managers are required to annually review their

                       Page 12                            GAO/IMTElC90-69   Automation:   Computer   Security
                  internal controls and report to the President and the Congress any mate-
                  rial weaknesses identified in these controls, along with the status of cor-
                  rective actions.G

                  In its fiscal years 1985 through 1989 Financial Integrity Act reviews,
                  Justice noted several significant concerns regarding its computer
                  security. However, Justice did not disclose as material weaknesses any
                  of the computer security deficiencies found during our review. Justice
                  was aware of several of these deficiencies following its 1986 internal
                  audit of the data center operations. These weaknesses are important
                  enough to warrant inclusion as material internal control weaknesses
                  that require corrective actions.

                  Justice is not fulfilling its obligation to ensure that sensitive information
Conclusions and   and computer systems are protected from unauthorized access and dis-
Recommendations   closure. We found that (1) the litigating organizations either have not
                  prepared contingency plans or have not tested them; (2) three litigating
                  organizations are performing risk analyses using software that may not
                  adequately assess all of their computer security threats and vulnerabili-
                  ties; (3) some significant deficiencies identified in risk analyses per-
                  formed for the four other litigating organizations have not been
                  corrected; and (4) legislatively mandated computer security training is
                  not being provided to ensure that employees in the litigating organiza-
                  tions are aware of their responsibilities. Justice’s main data center
                  stands vulnerable to unauthorized access because of deficiencies in
                  physical security. In addition, if operations are disrupted intentionally
                  or accidentally, the center has no contingency plan for providing backup
                  support. The center’s overall vulnerability to security violations cannot
                  be determined because a risk assessment completed in 1989 did not con-
                  sider several weaknesses, such as threats to physical security and con-
                  tinuity of operations.

                  The lack of active leadership and oversight by department security staff
                  in the Justice Management Division, coupled with a lack of security
                  awareness in Justice’s litigating organizations and main data center,

                  “The Office of Management and Budget has defined a material weakness as a specific instance of
                  noncompliance with the Financial Integrity Act of sufficient importance to be reported to the Presi-
                  dent and the Congress. Such weaknesses would significantly impair the fulfillment of an agency com-
                  ponent’s mission; deprive the public of needed services; violate statutory or regulatory requirements;
                  significantly weaken safeguards against waste, loss, unauthorized use or misappropriation of funds,
                  property, or other assets; or result in a conflict of interest,

                  Page 13                                        GAO/IMTEG90-69       Automation:   Computer   Security

    have contributed to serious and long-standing computer security weak-
    nesses that may compromise sensitive information. Given the highly
    sensitive nature of data processed and the current heightened aware-
    ness of computer security in general, Justice needs to be more proactive
    in protecting its computer systems. Moreover, because such weaknesses
    collectively could affect Justice’s ability to carry out its mission, as well
    as protect its sensitive information, they should be reported as material
    internal control weaknesses under the Federal Managers’ Financial
    Integrity Act.

    Accordingly, we recommend that the Attorney General take the fol-
    lowing actions:

. Immediately correct the security weaknesses described in this report;
  specifically, ensure that all litigating organizations prepare and test con-
  tingency plans, perform thorough risk analyses, correct the problems
  identified, and establish mandatory computer security training
. Immediately initiate steps at the main data center to ensure that (1) a
  contingency plan is completed, and physical and computer operation
  weaknesses we identified are corrected; and (2) a full-scope risk assess-
  ment of overall physical, system, and telecommunication security is con-
  ducted, and any weaknesses found are corrected.
. Improve the Justice Management Division’s leadership and oversight of
  departmental computer security programs by ensuring that the security
  staff (1) perform periodic audits and reviews of sensitive systems,
  (2) certify the adequacy of security safeguards, and (3) monitor the liti-
  gating organizations’ compliance with computer security training
l Report the computer security deficiencies as a material internal control
  weakness under the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act, and dis-
  cuss the actions that will be taken to correct the weakness.

    As requested by your office, we did not obtain formal agency comments
    on this report. However, we discussed the information in the report with
    Justice officials responsible for agencywide security and program man-
    agement, and have incorporated their views as appropriate. Additional
    information on our objectives, scope, and methodology is contained in
    appendix I. As agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce
    the report’s contents earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30
    days from the date of this letter. At that time, we will send copies to the
    Attorney General of the United States and other interested parties.

    Page 14                             GAO/IMTEG90-69   Automation:   Computer   Security

This report was prepared under the direction of Howard G. Rhile,
Director, General Government Information Systems, who may be
reached at (202) 276-3455. Other major contributors are listed in
appendix II.

Sincerely yours,

Ralph V. Carlone
Assistant Comptroller General

Page 15                          GAO/IMTEG9089   Automation:   Computer   Security
Appendix I

Objectives,Scope,and Methodology

              In a July 6,1989, letter, the Chairman, Subcommittee on Government
              Information, Justice, and Agriculture, House Committee on Government
              Operations, requested that we determine whether and how Justice is
              complying with the Computer Security Act of 1987 and other applicable
              laws and regulations in securing its computer systems. The request was
              prompted by our earlier review of Project EAGLE, in which we found that
              Justice did not adhere to the act and Office of Management and Budget
              policies and guidelines requiring risk analyses and security plans for the
              EAGLE systems.

              Our review focused on security programs in Justice’s litigating organiza-
              tions, which include 94 U.S. Attorney offices and six divisions- Anti-
              trust, Civil, Civil Rights, Criminal, Land and Natural Resources, and
              Tax. We also conducted a limited assessment of computer security con-
              trols at Justice’s main data center in Rockville, Maryland, which is used
              by some of the litigating organizations to process information.

              To assess Justice’s efforts to comply with federal computer security
              laws and regulations, we examined its policies and procedures for
              securing automated information resources and other relevant documents
              describing computer security requirements, responsibilities, and prac-
              tices in the litigating organizations. We interviewed security program
              officials in each litigating organization and officials responsible for
              agencywide security and program management in the Justice Manage-
              ment Division. To assess the extent of reported computer security viola-
              tions, we also interviewed responsible staff in the Offices of Inspector
              General and Professional Responsibility.

              Our assessment of Justice’s main data center was limited to a review of
              existing physical and other operational security controls. The review did
              not examine technical and system controls such as data encryption and
              user identification and authentication.

              We performed our work between September 1989 and June 1990, in
              accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. As
              requested by your Office, we did not obtain formal comments on a draft
              of this report. We did, however, discuss the information in this report
              with Justice officials and have included their comments where

              Page 16                           GAO/IMTEG9089   Automation:   Computer   Security
Appendf x II

Mqjor Contributors to This Report

                           Stephen A. Schwartz, Assistant Director
Information                William D. Hadesty, Technical Assistant Director
Management and             Valerie C. Monroe, Senior Evaluator-in-Charge
                           Richard L. Sumner, Senior Evaluator
Technology Division,
Washington, DC.

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