Stung, White House orders rapid cybersecurity fixes

Agencies were told to scan systems and check logs for indicators of threats, patch critical vulnerabilities "without delay," as well as tighten policies and practices for privileged users.

The White House has ordered federal agencies to take immediate steps to make some basic cybersecurity fixes. The move follows a massive breach of government employee records.

Agencies were told to scan systems and check logs for indicators of threats, patch critical vulnerabilities "without delay," as well as tighten policies and practices for privileged users, including minimizing the number of people in this category and limiting the duration a privileged user can be logged in.

The White House also wants to "dramatically accelerate implementation" of multi-factor authentication, and said intruders "can easily steal or guess" username and passwords. But requiring use of a personal identity verification (the government's name for its smart card), or some other means of multi-factor authentication can "significantly reduce the risk of adversaries."

This action follows the government's announcement earlier this month that personal data of approximately 4 million current and former federal employees was compromised in a breach of the Office of Personnel Management systems.

The security initiative, headed by Tony Scott, the U.S. CIO, was announced late Friday in memo, and included the creation of a "Cybersecurity Sprint Team" to lead a 30-day review of the government's cybersecurity policies, procedures and practices. Agencies will have to report on their progress by the end of this review period.

Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, said the government plan outlined an "excellent selection of priority actions," but included a flawed monitoring strategy "that will enable massive holes." The biggest problem is self-reported compliance. Agencies can report they are in compliance based on their own understanding or definition of what constitutes compliance, he said.

The government's action stressed a number of basic security measures, and Ken Westin, a senior security analyst at security firm Tripwire, said that "in government, as well as private industry, many overlook basic security controls." He said it's easy to get distracted by shiny new security tools.

"Many times these fundamentals can have a broader impact on an organization's security posture, so it is critical that new programs or tools are implemented on top of a mature set of layered security controls," said Westin.

There is no evidence so far that the stolen employee information was misused, according to OPM. But affected employees are eligible for 18 months of credit monitoring protection, as well as $1 million of identity theft insurance.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags white housesecurity

More about SANS InstituteSprintTripwire

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Patrick Thibodeau

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts