indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
DOI fares poorly on computer security report card
Thursday, December 11, 2003

For the fourth year in a row, the Department of Interior has been given an 'F' for computer security, one of the worst grades in all of federal government.

In their annual Federal Computer Security Report Card on Tuesday, lawmakers on the House Committee on Government Reform evaluated computer security measures at 24 agencies. They assigned letter grades and numeric scores based on how well each implemented and planned for the protection of critical information.

Based on Interior's score of 43, the department is one of the lowest-performing. Only four other agencies -- Agriculture (40), Homeland Security (35), Housing and Urban Development (40) and State (39.5) -- fared worse.

In court papers filed yesterday with the federal judge overseeing the Indian trust fund case, government attorneys pointed out that the department's score was as an improvement from 2002. It was. Last year, the lawmakers gave Interior a 37.

But the department is one of the few agencies whose progress has actually declined since the report card was first issued in 2000. Interior's score in that year was a dismal 17, the lowest of all agencies. The following year, the score jumped to 48.

The failing assessment reflects some of the major problems Interior has had in recent years. Even though the department, as a trustee, is responsible for the accurate collection and distribution of billions of dollars in Indian funds, information technology officials never put in security measures.

The weaknesses left Indian money prone to computer hacking. In the summer of 2001, security experts hired by a court investigator in the Cobell trust fund lawsuit were able to do just that. Without detection, a firm from New York broke into several computer systems that contain leasing, title, payment and other Indian trust data.

A Bureau of Indian Affairs subordinate in charge of the agency's computer network in suburban Washington, D.C., downplayed the attacks at the time. Top officials believed everything was fine and did nothing to change the situation.

But in November 2001, special master Alan Balaran released a detailed report on the security failings. The experts, he wrote, were able to breach the BIA and Interior network through an ordinary public Internet connection.

Those findings prompted U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, two years ago this week, to order Interior to disconnect the Internet connections of systems that house or have access to Indian trust data. Government officials responded by pulling the plug on every single computer -- including those that distribute payments to Indian and tribal beneficiaries.

The action left many without money for the holiday season. "[Secretary] Gale Norton is the Grinch who stole Christmas," a tribal leader said at the time.

Thanks to the addition of network firewalls and other measures, the systems have been restarted but they have not been reconnected ot the Internet. Neither have tens of thousands of computers used by BIA employees to carry out their jobs. According to a September 8, 2003, report Norton sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget, the department doesn't "have the necessary security capabilities to facilitate more open access via the Internet."

Despite Interior's woes, the agency is in comparable company. The overall grade for all 24 agencies on the report card was a 'D'.

"We must come to the stark realization that a major Achilles heel is our computer networks," said Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla), the chairman of the Government Reform subcommittee that compiles the report card. "Unfortunately, the history of our nation -- in heeding warnings of imminent danger -- doesn't lend itself to very much optimism."

The 2004 budget that was just signed into law contains major boosts for information technology at the BIA and throughout Interior. Indian programs were subject to an across-the-board cut to provide this money.

Get the Report Card:
2003 Federal Computer Security Report Card (December 9, 2003)

From the Indianz.Com Archive:
Report reveals attacks on tribal, Indian trust (12/5)
No Trust: Hacking the Department of Interior (12/5)
DOI Shutdown: 'We're Hurting Tribes' (12/7)
From the top, a gamble in trust (12/7)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust

Related Stories:
Norton says DOI computer systems not secure (09/18)
Judge seeks to break impasse over trust systems (07/29)
<Lamberth orders disconnect of computer systems (06/30)
DOI e-mail server was temporarily disconnected (04/25)
DOI concealed TAAMS problems from court (4/22)
BIA incident prompts high-level recommendation (03/27)
Senior trust reform official leaves Interior (03/10)
New Bush budget aims to improve trust fund (02/04)
Court report blasts McCaleb for destroying records (01/27)
Court: McCaleb 'fabricated' e-mail story (1/24)
Martin read about deposition online (12/23)
BIA aides circumventing court (12/16)
Martin's role in incident surfaces (12/16)
McCaleb latest in long line of DOI departures (11/25)
Key trust reform player leaving BIA (02/28)
Trust fund corruption not a problem, says witness (01/15)

Copyright 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Sisseton Wahpeton fighter gets big chance (4/22)
Native Sun News: Pine Ridge man behind Revolution Couture (4/22)
CDC reports show high death rates among Native Americans (4/22)
DOI Secretary Sally Jewell delivers keynote at tribal summit (4/22)
DOI Deputy Secretary Mike Connor hosts Earth Day webchat (4/22)
Winona LaDuke: Tribes won't see benefits from Keystone XL (4/22)
Photos: Cowboy Indian Alliance rides to National Mall in DC (4/22)
Alray Nelson: Bring marriage equality to the Navajo Nation (4/22)
Steven Newcomb: UNDRIP falls into domination framework (4/22)
DaShanne Stokes: 'Indian' mascots carry harmful impacts (4/22)
Wendell George: Little Joe connects with his tribal heritage (4/22)
Peter Twitchell: Stop passing the buck on our Yup'ik culture (4/22)
Murray Sinclair: Effects of residential school era will linger (4/22)
Wyoming tribes share per cap from $157M trust settlement (4/22)
Navajo Nation Council reconsiders higher tax on junk foods (4/22)
Choctaw Nation Chief Greg Pyle set to retire after 17 years (4/22)
Opinion: Maps represent destruction of Native people in US (4/22)
Oneida Nation to host PGA championship at resort in 2016 (4/22)
Blog: Climate change impacts Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations (4/22)
Supreme Court holding onto ruling in Bay Mills casino case (4/22)
Paskenta Band says leadership issues won't affect casino (4/22)
Forest County Potawatomi Tribe on track with casino hotel (4/22)
Deadline approaches for commercial casinos in New York (4/22)
Native Sun News: Keystone XL Pipeline foes headed to DC (4/21)
Native Sun News: Shoni Schimmel is a role model for youth (4/21)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee to hold hearing on energy (4/21)
Supreme Court takes no action on Indian tobacco petition (4/21)
Linda Capps: Citizen Potawatomi Nation is a good neighbor (4/21)
Bryan Brewer: Supreme Court discriminates against tribes (4/21)
Michell Hicks: Eastern Cherokees return to gardening roots (4/21)
Lisa Charleyboy: Still looking for love under the Indian Act (4/21)
Kiara Imani Williams: Tribal ID dismissed in nation's capital (4/21)
Henry Louis Gates: The myth of African and Indian ancestry (4/21)
DOI looks to spend $2.55M on Makah Nation land buy-back (4/21)
Pascua Yaqui Tribe faces a test of jurisdiction under VAWA (4/21)
State Department needs more time to review Keystone XL (4/21)
Fracking trucks take water from North Dakota reservation (4/21)
Lens Blog: An Indian from India meets Indians from the US (4/21)
Alaska Legislature passes Native language recognition bill (4/21)
Alaska Natives seek return of property for museum at Yale (4/21)
Opinion: Double standard in treatment of Shoshone sisters (4/21)
Column: Frank Waln blends Native traditions with hip-hop (4/21)
Native man's murder trial delayed due to jury roll problem (4/21)
Minneapolis city council to vote on Columbus Day change (4/21)
Opinion: Washington NFL team makes money off racial slur (4/21)
Los Coyotes Band praises action on off-reservation casino (4/21)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe cites ruling in gaming lawsuit (4/21)
Mohegan Tribe reports decline in casino revenue and profit (4/21)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.