Education Department struggles to protect security of financial system

Computer security weaknesses continue to make the Education Department's main financial management system vulnerable to misuse, despite recent improvements in security, according to a new report from the General Accounting Office. The report, "Education Information Security: Improvements Made But Control Weaknesses Remain" (GAO-01-1067), assessed the Education Department's general controls over its Central Automated Processing System, the department's main financial management system. General controls help prevent unauthorized access to information and guarantee that operations aren't disrupted. They include computer security management, operating procedures, software security features and physical protection. The Education Department has struggled with misuse of its financial management system for years. According to the agency's inspector general, more than $450 million in agency funds have been misused over the past three years. In March 2000, an agency employee embezzled nearly $2 million in federal grant money intended for two South Dakota school districts, using the money to purchase cars and property. The department seized the property and funds and both districts eventually received all of their grant money. From January 1997 to December 1999, contractors and Education employees, conspiring together, stole more than $300,000 worth of electronic equipment and collected more than $600,000 in false overtime pay. While Education did take some steps toward improving oversight of its financial system, it was still not enough to secure the department's information, GAO found. "Education did not sufficiently protect its network from unauthorized users, effectively manage user IDs and passwords, appropriately limit access to authorized users, effectively maintain system software controls or routinely monitor user access activity," the report found. Physical security, such as controlling changes to computer applications, is another area where Education fell short, according to GAO. GAO noted that Education is in the process of implementing a new computer security management program. Since the report's release, Education officials said many of the weaknesses GAO found have been fixed. A corrective action plan has been developed for remaining problems. In April, Education Secretary Rod Paige created an eight-member team from Education's senior ranks to develop internal controls to protect the department from mismanagement.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.