Nearly half of federal IT managers report breach in last six months: research

Nearly half of federal IT managers report breach in last six months: research
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Forty-two percent of high-level federal IT managers surveyed in new research reported experiencing a data breach in the last six months.

According to the survey released by cybersecurity company BeyondTrust on Wednesday, 1 in 8 said their systems weathered a data breach in the last 30 days. 

The research comes as lawmakers raise concerns about the vulnerability of federal government systems to criminal hackers and nation-state spies.

The cyber firm commissioned a survey of senior federal IT managers at the start of the year, finding that respondents singled out application vulnerabilities, nation-state attacks and malware as the top security threats. 

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Those surveyed said that a data breach, on average, costs over $91,000. Across the federal IT systems, data breaches are estimated to cost $637 million each year.

The vulnerability of legacy information technology was highlighted by the massive breach of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) computer systems, revealed in 2015, that impacted over 20 million individuals. The agency blamed the incident on its aging systems.

According to the new survey, 61 percent of federal IT officials said that this aging infrastructure impedes their ability to comply with federal cybersecurity mandates.

Nearly half of federal agencies still use Windows XP, according to the survey. Microsoft ended support of Windows XP in April 2014, meaning that the company no longer offers technical assistance or automatic security updates for the operating system. 

Lawmakers have been pushing for legislation that would incentivize agencies to swiftly transition to newer, more secure IT systems by creating two streams of funding for modernization efforts.

The bipartisan bill, introduced last week, cleared a House committee this week and is expected to soon advance to the House floor for a vote.