High-Risk Series: Protecting Information Systems Supporting the Federal Government and the Nation's Critical Infrastructures   [open pdf - 446KB]

Since GAO designated computer security in the federal government as high risk in 1997, evidence of pervasive weaknesses has been continuing. Also, related risks have been escalating, in part because of the dramatic increases in computer interconnectivity and increasing dependence on computers to support critical operations and infrastructures, such as power distribution, water supply, national defense, and emergency services. This year, GAO expanded this high risk area to include protecting the information systems that support our nation's critical infrastructures, referred to as cyber critical infrastructure protection or cyber CIP. Among other reasons for designating cyber CIP high risk is that terrorist groups and others have stated their intentions of attacking our critical infrastructures, and failing to protect these infrastructures could adversely affect our national security, economic security, and/or public health and safety. Since January 2001, efforts to improve federal information security have accelerated at individual agencies and at the government-wide level. Although improvements are under way, recent audits of 24 of the largest federal agencies continue to identify significant information security weaknesses that put critical federal operations and assets in each of these agencies at risk. While the actions taken to date are major steps to more effectively protect our nation's critical infrastructures, GAO has made numerous recommendations over the last several years concerning CIP challenges. In response to these challenges, improvements have been made and efforts are in progress, but more work is needed to address them.

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Government Accountability Office (GAO): http://www.gao.gov/
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