JUNE 20, 2007
The massive federal agency that secures U.S. borders, protects the nation from terrorist attacks and cyber threats cannot even protect its own “secure” computer system from hacker break ins.
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security, the blanket agency created to protect the country after the 2001 terrorist attacks, have admitted that its computer security system is not so secure after all. In the last two years alone, more than 800 unauthorized hackers have broken into the system possibly accessing crucial national security data.
Among the many duties of the 180,000-member Department of Homeland Security is detecting and fighting cyber threats and the agency gets major federal funding to do it.
In fact, last year its National Cyber Security Division received an extra $25 million – in addition to its annual budget of $79 million–to beef up its cyber security capabilities. The division’s director said the extra funding was crucial because computer crimes are on the increase and so-called cyber criminals are organizing and consolidating their efforts.
Despite the sophistication and major funding of the agency’s Cyber Security Division, hackers stole passwords and other files from Homeland Security computers. Other Homeland Security sub agencies, such as the Coast Guard and Transportation Security Administration, were infected with malicious software detected trying to communicate with outsiders.
The serious security lapses threaten the confidentiality, integrity and availability of key Department of Homeland Security information, according to Congressional investigators. A Homeland Security official said the agency takes these incidents very seriously and needs to increase its vigilance to ensure that they do not happen again.
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