recommended reading

Auditor finds security gaps in nuclear lab's information systems

The Lawrence Livermore National Nuclear Laboratory isn't adequately protecting some vital national security data and federal managers are improperly allowing contractors to make some decisions about sensitive information, according to an auditor's report released Tuesday.

In some cases, contractors have made "security-significant" changes to the computer systems that store information about the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile without the approval of the federal official in charge of those systems, according to the report from the Energy Department's inspector general.

In other cases, lab officials haven't rewritten their security protocols to reflect new minimum standards to prevent cyberattacks mandated by the Committee on National Security Systems, the report said.

The report blamed the failures on shoddy security planning and poor oversight from off-site officials at the National Nuclear Security Administration.

"Three of four system security plans we reviewed were incomplete and did not always sufficiently describe security controls and how they were implemented on the systems," the report said.

The Livermore security plans fell short on more than 25 metrics, including plans for what to do if a fire breaks out in the lab, the report said.

The auditor's report was prompted by a series of security failings at Energy Department agencies in recent years, including poor security controls at another storehouse for nuclear data, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, that led to more than 50 instances of classified data being either compromised or potentially compromised between 2002 and 2007.

The Los Alamos lab introduced new security procedures in 2006 that drastically reduced the number of security breaches.

The Livermore lab has remedied some security failings pointed out in prior IG reports, the auditors said, including ensuring that classified and nonclassified information isn't held in the same computer terminal.

The auditors recommended the National Nuclear Security Administration give clearer guidance to Livermore and other labs and develop better procedures for tracking those labs' adherence to security protocols.

Livermore managers generally agreed with the report's findings but disagreed with auditors about the scope of cybersecurity requirements that should apply to the lab, arguing the auditors were interpreting some federal security directives too broadly.

Lab management said "corrective actions were already under way," the report said, but did not include "specific corrective actions."

Threatwatch Alert

Stolen credentials

14M University Email Accounts for Sale on Dark Web

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.