Cyberattacks on federal government hit record high

Cyberattacks on federal government hit record high
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Federal network cybersecurity incidents were up 15 percent in fiscal 2014 from the previous year, according to a recent government report.

An annual Office of Management and Budget (OMB) report details information security practices across the government.

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A “cybersecurity incident” doesn’t necessarily mean a network was breached, but it does mean hackers were trying. Those efforts hit record highs in FY 2014, up to 70,000.

Nearly half of these incidents “were related to or could have been prevented by strong authentication,” the report said.

“Although some agencies are making significant progress, this report underscores the troubling reality that cyber attacks and intrusions continue to occur at an increasing rate, and agencies need to be better prepared,” said Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Tom CarperTom CarperGovernors-turned-senators meet to talk healthcare Overnight Healthcare: GOP'S repeal-only plan quickly collapses in Senate Dem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes MORE (D-Del.), in a Wednesday statement.

The OMB cautioned that some of the increased activity noted in the report is the result of better monitoring efforts.

Indeed, researchers gave agencies credit for improving their network monitoring and improved user authentication systems.

Nearly all agencies, 92 percent, now have some sort of continuous monitoring program in place, up from 81 percent last year.

This equips agencies with “tools and practices to better manage cyber vulnerabilities when they arise,” the report said.

Additionally, nearly three-quarters of agencies now use secure log-in methods in some capacity, up from about two-thirds last year.

This means more agencies are making staffers use some sort of unique personal identification card to log in, instead of a generic or transferable method like a password and username.

In civilian agencies, however, only 41 percent of user accounts use strong authentication methods, “well below” target, the OMB said.

“Now more than ever, the federal government needs to fully implement meaningful security programs that can withstand the serious cyber challenges our nation faces today and will face for the foreseeable future,” Carper said.

Congress must help government agencies achieve this goal, he added.

Lawmakers were able to pass a rare cybersecurity bill late last year that updated the 12-year-old Federal Information Security Management Act. The bill gave greater authority to OMB and the Department of Homeland Security in creating and implementing security strategies for federal agencies.

“This report makes it clear that we cannot rest on our laurels,” Carper said.