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Security still slack in WA government agencies

Auditor General highlights payment security concerns

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

While not as utterly hopeless as last year, IT security is still troublesome in Western Australia’s government agencies.

In last year’s annual audit, the Auditor General strolled through fourteen agency networks in an undetected penetration test. This year, the auditor’s staff have looked at payment security in nine agencies, as well as conducting a follow-up to last year’s tests.

Payment security presented a moderately depressing picture, with four unnamed agencies capturing customer data on their own servers before passing it off to a payment processor – something the report points out leaves the information potentially vulnerable to breaches (although the report didn’t find evidence of actual breaches).

Although the other five were more sensible – redirecting the customer straight to an external payment processor – the report also states that six agencies lack plans to respond to any loss of cardholder data.

In its follow-up to last year’s report, the Auditor-General found gems like cross-site scripting vulnerabilities in three agency servers, a payment vulnerability that allowed the testers to change the price of a purchase item to one cent (but still have the item delivered), and one agency that allowed an unauthorized user to upload files to its Website (which would allow an attacker to upload malicious files).

Two agencies were vulnerable to SQL injection attacks, while another held sensitive personal staff information on publicly-available Web servers. Yet another was more than two-and-a-half years behind on its software updates.

As the report notes, WA government agencies would do well to adopt the Defence Signals Directorate advice on how to keep their systems secure.

The agencies reviewed were the Departments of the Attorney-General, Finance, Housing, and Transport, along with Landgate, the Rottnest Island Authority, Synergy, the University of Western Australia, and the Water Corporation.

Exhibiting a touching faith in "security by obscurity", the report doesn't associate any agency with a particular vulnerability. ®

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