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The federal agency that insures US bank deposits suffers from network security holes that make it vulnerable to cyber thieves and saboteurs, a report by congressional investigators concluded Friday (28 May).

Though the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has made significant progress in shoring up cybersecurity in recent years, broad vulnerabilities were found in an audit conducted late last year, according to the report by the General Accounting Office, Congress's investigative arm.

The FDIC was formed in the 1930s in an effort to restore confidence in the US banking system during the Great Depression. Today it insures $3.3tn in deposits at over 9,000 financial institutions, and last year processed more than 2.6m financial transactions.

According to the GAO, access control lists on the FDIC's network could be modified by anyone with access to the network - some 6,300 people, including contractors. "With the ability to read, copy, or modify these files, an intruder could disable or disrupt network operations by taking control of sensitive and critical network resources."

Other lapses include inadequate controls on network connections to off-site locations, failures to secure known software vulnerabilities, and intrusion detection systems that were not fully implemented. "As a result, there are weaknesses in FDIC's monitoring program that could result in significant breaches to its computer security environment," the report reads. Additionally, some employees were inadvertently granted access to systems that house sensitive financial management information without any need for that access.

As a result of the vulnerabilities, "critical FDIC financial and sensitive personnel and bank examination information was at risk of unauthorized disclosure, disruption of operations, or loss of assets - possibly without detection," the GAO found.

In a written response, FDIC deputy chair Steven App acknowledged the security issues, and vowed to bolster cyber security at the agency. "[T]he FDIC remains committed to improving every aspect of our corporate-wide security program."

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