Feeds

US govt password security still dismal

Clueless civil servants leave citizens at risk

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

The importance of keeping passwords secret is endlessly reiterated by security firms, banks, and others. Yet US government tax service workers are still to pick up on the message, it seems.

Three in five (60 per cent) US Internal Revenue Service workers readily gave up their user names and agreed to change passwords to ones suggested by government auditors posing as help-desk employees. Only 35 per cent fell for same type of social engineering trick in similar tests on a sample of workers three years ago, while 71 per cent flunked the test in 2001.

Based on the results of the latest audit, the Treasury Department's inspector general concluded: "Employees either do not fully understand security requirements for password protection or do not place a sufficiently high priority on protecting taxpayer data in their day-to-day work."

Workers who flunked the test were asked why they exposed their login credentials to potential hackers. "Some of the notable reasons given were that the employee thought the scenario sounded legitimate and believable, did not think changing his or her password was the same as disclosing the password, or had experienced past computer problems," the report ((pdf) concludes.

Treasury Department auditors recommend that a refresher on password security and the perils of social engineering is administered to tax office workers. Furthermore, workers need to report suspicious requests to IRS computer security personnel for investigation. More internal audits on password security, involving disciplining careless or negligent workers is also needed, the report recommends.

Although attempts to attack the IRS's systems are commonplace, no successful attack has been recorded to date. The report notes that unless password security awareness is improved IRS workers might be exploited as the "weakest link" in facilitating future attacks, aimed at extracting taxpayer information for the purposes of identity theft or other forms of cybercrime. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.