Interior to spend $65m to get back online

Interior to spend $65m to get back online

Interior's Gale Norton says agencies have been restoring Internet service after ap-proval from a court-appointed officer.

The Interior Department expects to spend $65 million over the next three years to restore Internet service and upgrade security.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton this month announced the IT upgrade plans during a briefing about the department's fiscal 2003 budget proposal.

Interior has been functioning largely without Internet service since Dec. 6, when a federal judge cut off the connection to prevent hacking into databases containing information about American Indian trust fund accounts.

The department's agencies have been restoring Net service slowly, bringing parts of its site back online only since a court-appointed officer gave an OK and declared systems safe from tampering.

'We have in place a process with the special master,' Norton said, referring to Alan Balaran, who has been assigned to test Interior systems' security. 'It allows us to restore Internet service when security programs are in place.'

The Office of Surface Mining has restored its Web services, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs has resumed partial operations. Interior agencies negotiate with Balaran and the IBM Corp. consultants under his direction to have their systems approved.

The Geological Survey went back online first, in early December, because of an emergency appeal stemming from the agency's health and safety mission.

Six still down

Six Interior agencies still had no Web presence through the first week of February: the bureaus of Indian Affairs, Land Management and Reclamation; and the National Park, Fish and Wildlife, and Minerals Management services.

Interior budget director John Tresize said the department planned to build a system called Trustnet that would isolate systems storing trust data from other department systems. 'The proposal will be to build a secure network with secure firewalls,' Tresize said.

He said the department would move aggressively this year to secure trust data and build the new system, probably by reprogramming funds from other projects. Interior might use funds originally slated to integrate trust accounting databases into the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System, or TAAMS.

Neal A. Caleb, assistant secretary for Indian affairs, said $5.6 million of the $65 million in computer security spending would be devoted to improving the Bureau of Indian Affairs' systems.

BIA deputy assistant secretary Jim McDivvitt said BIA would bring its security up to the level specified in OMB Circular
A-130. The security directive requires that agencies implement the Paperwork Reduction acts of 1980 and 1995.

Tresize said separating the trust data from the rest of the department's data would bolster security.

'The problem was that the trust data is housed in [systems on] the BIA network, tightly integrated along with other BIA systems,' Tresize said. 'That's how the special master was able to hack into the system.'

Work on TAAMS already has been slowed and that $10 million budgeted for that activity this year is now largely available for Trustnet.

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