Magazine article Security Management

Taxing Security Problems

Magazine article Security Management

Taxing Security Problems

Article excerpt

Despite some progress in improving information security controls in the past several years, ongoing computer control weaknesses at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) "threaten the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive systems and taxpayer data," according to a recent report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) prepared for a House subcommittee.

The progress cited in the report includes more staff assigned to the IRS Security Services division, which increased from 60 in 1998 to 97 in 2003. Other advances include the implementation of virus protection programs and the establishment of a computer security incident response team. The agency also "consolidated several of its geographically dispersed computer systems." Additionally, it centralized responsibility for operation and maintenance of the network.

However, the GAO found scores of serious weaknesses left unaddressed from earlier audits of 11 IRS facilities. Chief among these was "inconsistent implementation of logical access controls." For example, inactive or unused accounts were often not removed, and the agency "was running easily exploitable and unnecessary services on servers at 10 facilities. …

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