Nov 4th 2013
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By Jason Bramwell
A new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) stipulated that until the IRS takes steps to fully implement all eleven security program areas covered by the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA), "taxpayer data will remain vulnerable to inappropriate use, modification, or disclosure – possibly without being detected."
Under FISMA, which was enacted to strengthen the security of information and systems within federal government agencies, the Offices of Inspectors General are required to perform an annual independent evaluation of each federal agency's information security programs and practices.
In Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration – Federal Information Security Management Act Report for Fiscal Year 2013, TIGTA reported it found the IRS was not compliant with FISMA requirements in two of the eleven security program areas: configuration management and identity and access management.
According to TIGTA, the two areas did not meet the level of performance specified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) FY 2013 Inspector General Federal Information Security Management Act Reporting Metrics due to the majority of the DHS-specified attributes being missing or not working as intended.
While generally compliant, three security program areas – incident response and reporting, security training, and remote access management – were not fully effective due to one program attribute that was missing or not working as intended, according to TIGTA.
The remaining six security program areas included all of the program attributes specified by the FISMA reporting metrics. Those security program areas included:
- Continuous monitoring management
- Risk management
- Plan of action and milestones
- Contingency planning
- Contractor systems
- Security capital planning
"The IRS collects and maintains a significant amount of personal and financial information on each taxpayer," the report stated. "As custodians of taxpayer information, the IRS has an obligation to protect the confidentiality of this sensitive information against unauthorized access or loss. Otherwise, taxpayers could be exposed to invasion of privacy and financial loss or damage from identity theft or other financial crimes."
TIGTA stated it does not include recommendations as part of its annual FISMA evaluation and reports only on the level of performance achieved by the IRS using the guidelines issued by the DHS for the applicable FISMA evaluation period.