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ACF Has Enhanced Some Cybersecurity Controls Over the Unaccompanied Children Portal and Data But Improvements Are Needed

Issued on  | Posted on  | Report number: A-18-22-03200

Why OIG Dd This Audit

The UC Program has experienced heightened attention and oversight from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Government Accountability Office. In a prior audit report of ACF, we reported that ACF did not adequately implement controls over the UC Portal to protect sensitive data in accordance with Federal requirements. During that audit, our penetration test identified vulnerabilities with ACF’s UC Portal application. We conducted the current audit because OIG believes vulnerabilities in ACF’s controls over UC data may still exist.

Our three objectives were to determine if ACF: (1) sufficiently addressed our prior audit findings, (2) implemented controls to ensure the cybersecurity of sensitive UC data in accordance with Federal requirements, and (3) incorporated adequate system development life cycle (SDLC) planning to ensure that the UC Portal aligns with its business and performance objectives.

How OIG Did This Audit

We assessed general IT controls and ACF’s implementation of our prior audit recommendations. To accomplish this, we reviewed ACF’s policies and procedures, interviewed staff, and reviewed the UC system security plan. We also reviewed ACF responses to the prior audit report and ACF’s actions taken to address the findings. Finally, we assessed the ACF system development practices for the UC portal.

What OIG Found

ACF implemented six of our seven prior audit recommendations by enhancing some of the cybersecurity controls that protect the sensitive UC Portal and data. The recommendation that was not completely addressed focused on user account reviews. Specifically, ACF did not consistently perform the reviews in accordance with the access control policy it issued in response to our prior audit recommendation. Also, ACF implemented 119 of 159 minimum required controls for a moderate system to ensure the cybersecurity of sensitive UC data. Of the remaining 40 cybersecurity controls, ACF did not fully implement 30 controls and designated 10 controls as “not applicable”. Finally, ACF performed adequate SDLC planning to ensure that the UC Portal aligns with its business and performance objectives.

What OIG Recommends and ACF Comments

We recommend that the Administration for Children and Families: (1) consistently perform user account reviews in accordance with its access control policy, and (2) fully implement the 30 required minimum controls identified in the UC Portal system security plan in different stages of implementation.

In written comments, ACF concurred with two of the three recommendations in our draft report, and described actions that it has taken or planned to take implement the two recommendations. For our first recommendation, ACF has begun a single sign-on application roll out that is slated to be completed after full integration with Department of Homeland Security’s identity system. The second recommendation, ACF has implemented 15 controls and is in process of implementing the remaining controls as ACF transitions to NIST 800-53 Revision 5. Regarding the third recommendation in the draft report, ACF indicated that its UC Portal SSP listed all required controls and the implementation status for those controls.

Based on our review of ACF’s comments and further analysis of ACF’s UC Portal SSP, we removed the third finding and associated recommendation.