A detailed review of hundreds of US Federal websites shows that most sites continue to operate without basic security and technical requirements set by the federal government and leading industry standards.

The second edition of the Benchmarking US Government Websites report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) measured US Federal websites on four key performance metrics, including Page-load speed, mobile-friendliness, security, and accessibility. The report found that 91% of the 469 Federal government websites fail at least one key performance measure, including one third that fail on at least one important security measure.

On the security front, researchers looked at compliance with basic security guidelines, such as using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, DNSSEC implementation and using HTTPS connections to transmit sensitive information between the browser and server.

Roughly 64% of websites passed security tests for SSL and DNSSEC, but 36% failed at least one of these two security measures. Only 8% of sites lacked HTTPS, down six percent since 2016 when 14% of reviewed sites lacked it.

Unfortunately, the following Federal websites still have not enabled HTTPS: International Trade Administration (trade.gov), National Defense University (ndu.edu), Bureau of Engraving and Printing (moneyfactory.gov), Savannah River Site (srs.gov), Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative (adlnet.org), Congressional-Executive Commission on China (cecc.gov), US Chemical Safety Board (csb.gov), US Government Accountability Office (gao.gov), Speaker of the House of Representatives (speaker.gov), Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (uscourts.gov), and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (medpac.gov).

The International Revenue Service (irs.gov), Office of the Director of National Intelligence (gni.gov), and the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (rrb.gov) websites show the greatest improvement since last year’s report.

Time and time again government websites have proven to be ideal targets for hackers, holding a treasure trove of information on over 300 million U.S. citizens and holding sensitive Intel on things like military plans and operations. These agencies need to abide by the NIST 800-53 compliance standard to protect this sensitive information. NIST 800-53 is a guide developed for US Federal agencies focused specifically on security controls that underpin security best practices for anyone operating Federal Information Systems, although IT related to National Security is covered separately.   

NNT Change Tracker uses a continuous monitoring approach to provide integrity verification in real-time, providing audit trail evidence and alerts in line with SP 800-53 controls. In addition, Configuration Management Policy and Procedure Controls can be provided using Change Tracker Compliance Reports and Planned Change operation to ensure only approved changes are made and any configuration drift is highlighted, with Who Made the Change and Remediation instructions provided as standard.

Read the article in InfoSecurity Magazine

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