Inspector General: State Department Vulnerable to Hackers

Friday, 17 Jan 2014 10:28 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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The State Department — which houses hundreds of millions of cyber-records containing Americans' Social Security numbers, birth dates and passports — repeatedly has been warned since 2011 about "vulnerabilities and risks" in its computer systems but has failed to develop a corrective plan, according to an Office of the Inspector General report.

The OIG's November report, made public this week, skewers the State Department for "recurring weaknesses," calling them "significant deficiencies."

The OIG directed the State Department to fast-track the development of better security and to work with the National Security Agency to conduct testing to pinpoint areas of risk.

The report comes following leaks of highly classified information by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and Army Pvt. Bradley Manning and a day after a bipartisan Senate committee found the Department of State to be negligent in its security, resulting in the September 2012 deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

More than 6,000 administrators are permitted wide access to State Department systems, making a future cyberattack such as Snowden's likely, The Washington Times reports.

"Really, no computers are completely secure," Clifford Neuman, director of the Center for Computer Systems Security at the University of Southern California, told The Washington Times. "With these kinds of systems, it's not if there will be a breach, it's when there will be a breach."

Government-targeted cyberattacks are on the rise, according to the report, and the NSA has taken a posture of "active defense" by using technology that can create "a digital highway for launching cyberattacks," The New York Times reported this week.

The most frequent NSA targets have been the Chinese army, which the United States has accused of launching regular digital probes and attacks on American industrial and military targets to steal secrets or intellectual property, The New York Times noted.
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