From the Summary of GAO-09-546 July 17, 2009, Information Security: Agencies Continue to Report Progress, but Need to Mitigate Persistent Weaknesses :
Persistent weaknesses in information security policies and practices continue to threaten the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of critical information and information systems used to support the operations, assets, and personnel of most federal agencies. Recently reported incidents at federal agencies have placed sensitive data at risk, including the theft, loss, or improper disclosure of personally identifiable information of Americans, thereby exposing them to loss of privacy and identity theft. For fiscal year 2008, almost all 24 major federal agencies had weaknesses in information security controls. An underlying reason for these weaknesses is that agencies have not fully implemented their information security programs. As a result, agencies have limited assurance that controls are in place and operating as intended to protect their information resources, thereby leaving them vulnerable to attack or compromise. In prior reports, GAO has made hundreds of recommendations to agencies for actions necessary to resolve prior significant control deficiencies and information security program shortfalls. Federal agencies reported increased compliance in implementing key information security control activities for fiscal year 2008; however, inspectors general at several agencies noted shortcomings with agencies’ implementation of information security requirements. Agencies reported increased implementation of control activities, such as providing awareness training for employees and testing system contingency plans. However, agencies reported decreased levels of testing security controls and training for employees who have significant security responsibilities. In addition, inspectors general at several agencies disagreed with performance reported by their agencies and identified weaknesses in the processes used to implement these activities. Further, although OMB took steps to clarify its reporting instructions to agencies for preparing fiscal year 2008 reports, the instructions did not request inspectors general to report on agencies’ effectiveness of key activities and did not always provide clear guidance to inspectors general. As a result, the reporting may not adequately reflect agencies’ implementation of the required information security policies and procedures.
A few statistics from the report:
When incidents occur, agencies are to notify the federal information security incident center—US-CERT. The number of incidents reported by federal agencies to US-CERT has risen dramatically over the past 3 years, increasing from 5,503 incidents reported in fiscal year 2006 to 16,843 incidents in fiscal year 2008 (slightly more than 200 percent). [p. 10]
The three most prevalent types of incidents reported to US-CERT during fiscal years 2006 through 2008 were unauthorized access (18%), improper usage (22%), and investigation (34%). [pp. 11-12]
The number of agencies having security weakness x type of weakness for Fiscal Year 2008: