CAO recommends tighter security rules for House laptops, wireless devices


 As part of the new security measures, all House staffers who travel outside the territorial United States will be “required to have their House wireless devices and laptop computers checked by House officials before and after they travel,” according to the CAO.

 

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The security recommendations were sought by both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) at the beginning of November, when they asked the CAO to assess the quality of security surrounding the thousands of computers the office maintains and protects.

The request came shortly after a document detailing numerous investigations by both the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and the Office of Congressional Ethics was leaked to The Washington Post. Lawmakers blamed the leak on a staffer who was working from home on a computer with file-sharing software.

The computers of House members and their staff, including members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, have been hacked repeatedly, from both foreign and domestic points of origin, over the past several years.

 The CAO recommended that House staff partake in a security training program next year to keep them abreast of the most current “privacy and security procedures.”

 House security policies are also expected to be changed so that “all sensitive House information will remain on House equipment at all times, that it will be encrypted when stored on mobile devices and that it must not be transmitted on any public access system without protective measures.”

 Additionally, staff and member BlackBerrys, which are issued by the CAO, will be required to be password-protected and will automatically lock when idle.

 The House Administration Committee heralded the CAO’s recommendations in a statement on Tuesday and said it sought for them to be implemented “with all possible expediency.”

 “As stewards of taxpayer dollars, we must make every possible effort to ensure the safety and security of House resources,” said committee Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) and ranking Republican Dan Lungren (Calif.) in a joint statement.

“Beyond securing physical assets, our efforts must extend to safeguarding sensitive information. Employing adequate measures to protect House information is a key component of our responsibility to protect the integrity of this institution.”

 The CAO said it would be working with members of the committee in the coming weeks “to develop the appropriate implementation strategies for these recommendations.”