[ISN] Homeland Security Rapped On Wireless Security

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Fri Jul 2 08:35:57 EDT 2004


By Eric Chabrow 
July 1, 2004 

The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General
contends the department has failed to establish adequate security
controls over its wireless network.

In a report made public Wednesday, the inspector general said wireless
policy is incomplete, procedures don't establish a sound baseline for
wireless security implementation, and the National Wireless Management
Office isn't exercising its full responsibilities in addressing
Homeland Security's wireless technologies. In addition, the report
said, the department hasn't established adequate security measures to
protect its wireless networks and devices.

"Although the DHS security policy requires certification and
accreditation for its systems to operate, none of the wireless systems
reviewed had been certified or accredited," the 42-page report says.  
"As a result of these wireless network exposures, DHS cannot ensure
that the sensitive information processed by its wireless systems are
effectively protected from unauthorized accesses and potential

Except for the contention that the National Wireless Management Office
isn't exercising its full responsibilities, department CIO Steve
Cooper generally concurred with the inspector general's assessment.  
Cooper asserts that the Wireless Management Office has made
significant progress and is improving its outreach throughout the
department so all offices become aware of its existence and
responsibilities. In addition, Cooper said in a written response, the
Wireless Management Office works closely with the department's chief
information security officer to ensure that wireless security policy
is properly formulated and disseminated, and that it's sufficient to
ensure the department's wireless communications. Despite Cooper's
response, the inspector general stands by his conclusion that
oversight by the office of wireless functionality needs to be

The report cited a number of problems. For instance, the inspector
general said his office performed random 802.11b detection scans at 10
department facilities to identify rogue wireless devices, verify
signal coverage for access points, and review configuration settings
to evaluate security controls. Of four department offices that use
802.11x technology, none monitored wireless activity. They also failed
to set a schedule to review access-point logs to identify unauthorized
login attempts or to determine whether rogue devices had been
introduced into the network. In addition, the inspector general found
several 802.11x security vulnerabilities.

The inspector general offered five recommendations it says would help
the department remedy the identified deficiencies. Specifically, the
Homeland Security Department's CIO should:

* Define the conditions and limitations for using wireless
  technologies in the department's security policy

* Update the departmental IT Security Program Handbook for Sensitive
  Systems to include implementation procedures required by National
  Institute of Standards and Technology for the use of wireless

* Require the National Wireless Management Office to provide the
  necessary oversight and guidance to align components' wireless
  programs with DHS's wireless goals--something Cooper contends it's
  already doing

* Implement a standardized configuration for wireless technologies on
  department networks

* Complete certification and accreditation for each departmental

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