INFORMATION SECURITY: Agencies Need to Improve Oversight of Contractor Controls

From a newly released GAO report:

Although the six federal agencies that GAO reviewed (the Departments of Energy (DOE), Homeland Security (DHS), State, and Transportation (DOT), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)) generally established security and privacy requirements and planned for assessments to determine the effectiveness of contractor implementation of controls, five of the six agencies were inconsistent in overseeing the execution and review of those assessments, resulting in security lapses. For example, in one agency, testing did not discover that background checks of contractor employees were not conducted. The following table shows the degree of implementation of oversight activities at selected agencies.

A contributing reason for these shortfalls is that agencies had not documented procedures for officials to follow in order to effectively oversee contractor performance. Until these agencies develop, document, and implement specific procedures for overseeing contractors, they will have reduced assurance that the contractors are adequately securing and protecting agency information.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the General Services Administration have developed guidance to assist agencies in ensuring the implementation of security and privacy controls by their contractors. However, OMB guidance to agencies for categorizing and reporting on contractor-operated systems is not clear on when an agency should identify a system as contractor-operated and therefore agencies are interpreting the guidance differently.

Read more:
INFORMATION SECURITY:Agencies Need to Improve Oversight of Contractor Controls
GAO-14-612: Published: Aug 8, 2014. Publicly Released: Sep 8, 2014.  (PDF, 43 PAGES)

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