Focus on cybersecurity compliance called ineffective

Adherence to congressionally mandated IT security processes is a poor measure of the true state of cybersecurity across the government, a former federal chief information security officer said Wednesday.

Agencies are fixated on complying with statutes such as the 2002 Federal Information Security Management Act and are creating piles of paperwork and checklists that indicate little about actual security levels, said Bruce Brody, vice president of information security at INPUT, a Reston, Va.-based market analysis firm.

Brody said annual cybersecurity grades determined by the House Government Reform Committee and its chairman, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., based on FISMA compliance, also have little meaning. For fiscal 2004, the federal government achieved an overall grade of D+, up from a D the previous year.

"When the annual FISMA grades are released -- which could be imminently -- you have to ask yourself, what do those grades really mean?" Brody said. "The high grades could mean a lot of compliance, but not a lot of security. The low grades could mean that there's plenty of security in place, but it just wasn't verified on paper properly."

Brody, who has served as the chief cybersecurity officer at the Energy and Veterans Affairs departments, spoke to members of the press after a three-hour closed-door meeting consisting of chief cybersecurity officers for the Federal Communications Commission, Senate and departments of State, Commerce, Treasury, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

The workshop was hosted by the Information Security Forum, a nonprofit association of cybersecurity companies, the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium and INPUT.

Brody said the government officials and private sector security professionals at the meeting discussed what "five years of FISMA has given" agencies. The topic produced a great deal of discussion and some mixed opinions, he said.

A survey of cybersecurity officers conducted in August 2005 found that agencies are spending more time complying with FISMA each year.

Marc Noble, the FCC's chief security officer and the only workshop attendee available to speak to the media after the meeting, said he hopes to come up with a risk-based solution to secure his agency's IT systems, rather than focusing on regulatory compliance.

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:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


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