GAO: Cybersecurity: Federal Agencies including CMS Need to Coordinate on Requirements and Assessments of States

Why GAO Did This Study

“To protect data that are shared with state government agencies, federal agencies have established cybersecurity requirements and related compliance assessment programs. Specifically, they have numerous cybersecurity requirements for states to follow when accessing, storing, and transmitting federal data.”

“GAO was asked to evaluate federal agencies’ cybersecurity requirements and related assessment programs for state agencies. The objectives were to determine the extent to which (1) selected federal agencies’ cybersecurity requirements for state agencies varied with each other and federal guidance, and (2) federal agencies had policies for coordinating their assessments of state agencies’ cybersecurity.”

“GAO reviewed four federal agencies that shared data with states and had assessment programs: CMS, FBI, IRS, and SSA…”

What GAO Found

“Although the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Social Security Administration (SSA) each established requirements to secure data that states receive, these requirements often had conflicting parameters. Such parameters involve agencies defining specific values like the number of consecutive unsuccessful logon attempts prior to locking out the user. Among the four federal agencies, the percentage of total requirements with conflicting parameters ranged from 49 percent to 79 percent. Regarding variance with National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance, GAO found that the extent to which the four agencies did not fully address guidance varied from 9 percent to 53 percent of total requirements. The variances were due in part to the federal agencies’ insufficient coordination in establishing requirements. Although the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Circular A-130 requires agencies to coordinate, OMB has not ensured that agencies have done so. Further, while federal agencies’ variance among requirements may be justified in some cases because of particular agency mission needs, the resulting impact on states is significant, according to state chief information security officers…”

What GAO Recommends

“GAO is making 12 recommendations to the four selected agencies and to OMB. Three agencies agreed with the recommendations and one agency (IRS) partially agreed or disagreed with them. OMB did not provide comments. GAO continues to believe all recommendations are warranted.”

Access the full 74-page report here.

Source: U.S. GAO – Cybersecurity: Selected Federal Agencies Need to Coordinate on Requirements and Assessments of States – May 27, 2020. GAO.

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