OMB tightens IT security incident rules

Agencies must now report all security incidents involving personally identifiable information within one hour of discovering the incident, the Office of Management and Budget said in a memo tightening information security notification procedures.

OMB also added new requirements for incorporating the cost of security in agency IT investments for fiscal 2008 IT budget submissions.

The Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 requires all agencies to report security incidents to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) within the Homeland Security Department. Procedures require agencies to report according to various time frames based on the type of incident.

OMB has strengthened notification procedures by making the one-hour requirement standard for both electronic and physical security, and for suspected as well as confirmed security breaches.

'You should report all incidents involving personally identifiable information in electronic or physical form and should not distinguish between suspected and confirmed breaches,' said Karen Evans, OMB administrator for e-government and IT in the memo dated yesterday.

US-CERT will forward all agency reports to the appropriate Identity Theft Task Force point of contact, also within one hour of notification by an agency.

The tightening of incident notification comes on the heels of House Government Reform Chairman Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) directing agencies to report to him in two weeks summaries of all data breaches that have occurred since 2003.

One security expert believes that Davis may get information only about data breaches that have already been made public or those that have not had a direct impact on Americans.

'The agencies cannot answer that honestly because if they do, they will provide evidence that they had not told US CERT about all of the attacks,' said Alan Paller, research director at the SANS Institute in Bethesda, Md.

In addition to existing guidance for 2008 IT budgets, the memo urged agencies to detail how they distribute their resources between correcting existing security weaknesses in steady-state investments and proposing funds for system development, modernization or enhancement.

Agencies with significant weaknesses that the agency Inspector General or the Government Accountability Office have identified should also highlight the specific funds requested for proposed development, modernization or enhancement efforts to correct these security weaknesses. This includes correcting weaknesses found during privacy program reviews and for implementing security controls.

Under existing guidance, agencies must integrate security and fund it over the lifecycle of each system undergoing development, modernization or enhancement. Steady-state system operations also must meet existing security requirements before new funds are spent on system development, modernization or enhancement.

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