Davis: More security measures needed for federal contractors

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said IT systems provided by contractors are 'potential Trojan horses for cyberattacks' and called for additional measures to supplement and strengthen existing security policies for contractor-provided IT systems.

'The federal government is dependent on information technology services and systems provided by outside contractors,' Davis, the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said in a statement issued yesterday in response to an April 22 Government Accountability Office report on information security.

'While these contractor systems undoubtedly contribute to the effectiveness of the federal government, they are potential Trojan horses for cyberattacks unless more is done. Given the interconnectivity of systems across cyberspace, all it takes is one weak link to break the chain,' he added.

The GAO report, titled 'Information Security: Improving Oversight of Access to Federal Systems and Data by Contractors Can Reduce Risk,' said that in relying on IT services and systems provided by contractors, federal agencies were not doing enough to secure their information and face a range of operational, strategic and legal risks. For example, the report said, malicious code could be inserted into agency software and systems.

The report noted that efforts to update the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to include information security requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 have been under way since 2002, but are still incomplete. FISMA established a framework for enhancing the effectiveness of information security controls that support federal operations and assets.

Although most federal agencies have information security policies in place for contractors, only a small part of them address oversight, Davis said. Only a few agencies use a self-assessment tool established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to measure the status of contractors that provide IT systems, he said.

The House Government Reform Committee will examine the Office of Management and Budget's efforts to update the FAR to include stricter information security requirements, Davis said. Amendments to facilitate implementation of the security principles that drive FISMA may be necessary, he added.

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