More than 40,000 cyber threats to government last year

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Cyber attacks against the U.S. government are on the rise, and agencies are struggling to protect important information from hackers.

Critical infrastructure—like power distribution, water supply, and emergency services—and federal agencies have become increasingly dependent on computerized systems. This coincides with increased cyber threats against the government.

Federal agencies report cyber threats to a computer emergency team at the Department of Homeland Security. The number of reported incidents has risen dramatically, from 5,503 in 2006 to a staggering 41,776 last year.

Poor security can cause the loss of federal payments, access to taxpayers’ personal information, or national security losses.

The Department of Homeland Security issued plans for infrastructure protection and cyber incidents, while the executive branch has tried to reduce the number of federal access points on the internet, but according to the Government Accountability Office , these efforts have not done enough.

“The administration and executive branch agencies have not yet fully implemented key actions that are intended to address threats and improve the current U.S. approach to cyber security,” the GAO said. “Agencies did not consistently implement effective controls to prevent, limit and detect unauthorized access and ensure system integrity.”

GAO recommended the Homeland Security computer emergency team enhance its analysis and warning capabilities to better assist federal agencies during cyber attacks.

FAST FACT: The most frequent violations of cyber security reported by agencies were malicious codes— when software infects an application or operating system, improper use of a system, and unauthorized access to a computer.

Following are other new watchdog reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG), and other government entities.

NATIONAL SECURITY

  • The Pentagon disclosed the total intelligence budget for 2010 was $80.1 billion. The intelligence budget is composed of two programs, the National Intelligence Program and Military Intelligence Program. The military intelligence budget has never been released publicly before. (Department of Defense)
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency has spent $8 billion over the past 11 years on debris cleanup after natural disasters, an essential step after an emergency. While the cleanup was generally accomplished in a timely manner, it was not performed at the lowest cost possible. Current methods leave FEMA and its applicants vulnerable to waste and fraud. (Department of Homeland Security)