Tags: state | dept | computer | hacking

State Department Warns of Hacking Risk

Wednesday, 29 Jan 2014 03:55 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The State Department's computer systems are wide open to a security breach that could result in large-scale hacking or the theft of classified documents similar to the case of fugitive leaker Edward Snowden at the NSA, the agency's inspector general has warned.

The IG says that "classified information vital to the preservation of national security in high-risk environments across the globe" is in danger of a cyber-attack, along with the personal information of 192 million U.S. passport holders, according to Fox News.

The IG's warning was revealed when a "management alert" to the department's leading officials became public, although many portions were heavily redacted for security reasons.

Three years after U.S. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning gave hundreds of thousands of sensitive State Department cables to WikiLeaks, the alert said the department's "info-tech system" is still rife with security risks and there are no plans on how to fix it.

The alert says that between 2011 and 2013, six detailed reports on information security found "recurring weaknesses" in several areas of cyber-security, including the protection of its system from hackers or unauthorized users.

The report also points out that the State Department is meant to warn other agencies like Homeland Security of the potential security risks but has failed to do so.

The inspector general's alert noted that the department had "remediated the identified vulnerabilities and risks," which means that little or nothing at all had been done to fix the potential security lapses, Fox News reported.

The department's watchdog said that part of the problem was the Bureau of Information Resource Management, which specifically oversees information security issues. The IG report said it had "identified a number of conditions that required management’s attention” at IRM.

The report also warned that, as of last August, IRM had a startling number of systems administrators, 6.369 to be exact, who are cleared to "collaboratively manage and troubleshoot issues” across the State Department.

The IG compares the security danger to what happened with former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden, who has leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents after stealing them while working as a contracted systems administrator for the agency.

The "management alert" also reveals that 36 workers had "access to unspecified areas" to classified information, even though they didn’t have the proper security clearances to perform work on those documents, Fox News says.

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