The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has still failed to implement over a third of the recommendations noted by government auditors after the devasting breach the organization faced in 2015.

Of the 80 recommendations laid out by the Government Accountability Office, 29 remain “open”. These recommendations include essential cybersecurity practices, such as installing the latest OS versions on networks supporting “high impact” systems.

Prohibiting multiple staff members from using the same admin accounts, enforcing password encryption at rest and in transit, and implementing procedures governing the use of special privileges on key computers were all missing from OPMs plans, leaving many to wonder if they are taking their role in security seriously.

The OPM still have not been able to prove to the GOA that it has reset all passwords following the breach, or that it installs critical patches in a timely fashion. Unsurprisingly, the OPM has also not been able to demonstrate that it periodically evaluates accounts to ensure privileged access is warranted, or accesses controls on certain systems as part of continuous monitoring.

Continuous monitoring is essential to any effective cybersecurity program. NNT Change Tracker Gen7R2 helps organizations identify suspicious activity using highly sophisticated contextual change control underpinned by threat intelligence to spot breach activity while reducing change noise.

“Until OPM implements these recommendations, its systems and information will be at increased risk of unauthorized access, use, disclosure, modification, or disruption,” a congressional briefing document noted.

The 2015 breach is believed to have been conducted by Chinese hackers after they obtained credentials from a contractor. This unlawful access was used to install backdoors and information-stealing malware on the department’s network, resulting in the exposure of 21.5 million sensitive records relating to former and current federal employees.

Fortunately, the OPM said it plans to implement 25 of the 29 open recommendations by the end of 2018 and three more by the end of the fiscal year 2019.


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