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Senate Report Uncovers Cybersecurity Failures at SSA and Other Federal Agencies

Jul 30, 2019

Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) July 30, 2019 – A congressional report revealed the Social Security Administration (SSA) and seven other federal agencies have failed to adequately defend the personal information of millions of Americans from cyberattacks. The weaknesses in the agencies’ outdated IT systems and lack of basic cybersecurity defenses have left them susceptible to various threats.

The report was released by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) led a 10-month review of data on the IT systems and cybersecurity standards of eight federal agencies from the last decade. The agencies under examination were the SSA and the departments of State, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Education and Agriculture.

Recent audits showed all eight agencies are using severely outdated “legacy” systems or those that are no longer supported by their original vendors. The agencies have also failed to install mandatory security updates that provide protection against hackers looking for potential openings to steal data.

“Federal agencies that collect vast amounts of private information about millions of people also have a responsibility to safeguard that data,” commented Florida social security disability attorney David W. Magann. “Modernizing their IT networks should be a priority. Ultimately, disability benefits recipients and other ordinary citizens are the ones who stand to lose the most in case of a cyberattack on the SSA or another government department that results in their personal information being stolen.”

Congressional researchers found the SSA had serious cybersecurity vulnerabilities that risked exposing the personal details of more than 60 million Americans who receive Social Security benefits. Individuals are required to provide the SSA with years of medical records to prove they are entitled to disability benefits. The data is stored on an IT system that uses a programming language that was created in the 1950s. Most of the people who know how to operate it are either in retirement or approaching it.

The Senate report published a list of recommended changes for enhanced security of the government’s IT systems. The suggestions included merging security processes to improve reaction time in case of a cyberattack, giving chief information officers the authority to make agency-wide cybersecurity decisions and implementing new budgeting procedures to ensure the most serious threats are addressed urgently.

Federal agencies reported more than 35,200 cyber incidents in 2017 alone, marking a significant increase over the last decade. The report concluded that the government is inadequately prepared “to confront the dynamic cyber threats of today.” Portman said in a statement that it must “do a better job” of building up defenses against the growing risk of cyberattacks.

Learn more at http://www.floridasocialsecurity.com/