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[ISN] Interior Dept. Computer System Insecure


The Associated Press
September 29, 2005

WASHINGTON -- An investigation of the computer systems in several
Interior Department offices found numerous security flaws that
threaten the department's overall computer security and must be fixed,
according to an internal report.

Tests by the Interior Department's Office of the Inspector General
found several bureaus and offices "still suffer from serious
weaknesses in their security posture," Inspector General Earl Devaney
wrote in a Sept. 6 memo to Assistant Secretary Lynn Scarlett.

According to the report, obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday,
investigators several times were able to masquerade as authorized
users, roam the internal networks of some of the department's most
sensitive computer systems and manipulate data. The tests were
performed in phases beginning in November 2004.

But Devaney said the department has balked at fixing the system.

"Rather than simply accepting the results of our testing and promptly
addressing the underlying vulnerabilities, the department and bureaus
have, to date, expended considerable time and energy debating our
findings, challenging our methodology and impugning the credentials
and integrity of our staff and contractors," Devaney wrote.

"I do not wish to repeat this past experience," he added, suggesting
the department work to fix the problem.

Interior Department spokesman Dan DuBray said the investigation was
done as part of an internal effort to identify any "potential
weaknesses or conceivable potential vulnerabilities."

The department's computer security has been challenged recently as
part of a class-action lawsuit in which thousands of American Indians
accuse the department of cheating them out of billions of dollars by
mismanaging oil, gas, grazing, timber and other royalties from their
land since 1887.

Plaintiffs have asked that a federal district court judge order
Interior Secretary Gale Norton to shut down the information technology
systems to protect data.

DuBray said the department will continue to aggressively work to
strengthen the computer systems, "which are now among the most
intricately examined in all of government."


On the Net:

Interior Department: http://www.doi.gov

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