Feeds

‘Too much cyber security’ at CIA

Risk exclusion

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

SANS - Survey on application security programs

While other government agencies struggle with their cyber security practices, the Central Intelligence Agency apparently suffers from the opposite problem: too much security -- according to a recent study of the agency's use of information technology.

In an unclassified report titled "Failing to Keep Up With the Information Revolution," former CIA officer Bruce Berkowitz -- now a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution -- found that the agency's intelligence analysts were hobbled by outdated software and cut off from many of the technological advances that workers outside the intelligence community take for granted.

Agency e-mail systems are clumsy, and the CIA's search engine is so "primitive" that analysts maintain informal networks of personal contacts within the agency just to track down the information they need to do their job. "A good analyst either knows someone, or 'knows someone who knows someone,' at another office or organization who can get the information they need," wrote Berkowitz.

Berkowitz partly blames tightfisted technology spending for the bureaucratic tangles, but concludes that the biggest impediment to applying information technology effectively is the agency's old-fashioned binary approach to cyber security, in which every system is either considered entirely secure, or completely insecure.

"The problem is that, when it comes to IT, the CIA's approach is not 'risk management,' but 'risk exclusion,'" the report concludes. "It is rare for anyone to do a formal cost-benefit analysis for a security rule affecting the use of IT, and hardly anyone asks whether a proposed rule will affect the ability of analysts to do their work."

As an example, Berkowitz noted that until recently the CIA banned Palm Pilots from the workplace for security reasons. And the agency only reluctantly brought Internet access to analyst's desks.

For the study, Berkowitz spoke to nearly 100 analysts, technicians, and managers at the intelligence agency during 2001-2002, while a visiting scholar at the Sherman Kent Center for Intelligence Analysis, an agency think tank. His report was published in the most recent unclassified edition of the CIA's journal "Studies in Intelligence."

Among other recommendations, Berkowitz suggests the Virginia-based spy agency take into account varying levels of risk and costs in protecting different types of information -- "solving security requirements rather than simply eliminating potential threats."

© SecurityFocus.com

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.