Treasury needs better cybersecurity tracking

The Government Accountability Office wants Treasury to do more to track the progress of financial services industry cybersecurity mitigation efforts.

system protection (wavebreakmedia/

The Treasury Department isn't keeping up with tracking how well the financial services sector is mitigating cybersecurity risk, according to a new report.

The Government Accountability Office said Sept. 17 that Treasury needs to put data behind its efforts to gauge how the sector is progressing in its fight against growing cyber threats.

The Treasury Department says it faces limitations when it comes to demanding data from commercial firms.

GAO recommended in 2015 that Treasury, the federal government's sector specific agency that supports the financial services sector's cybersecurity, develop metrics to measure and report on the effectiveness of all of its cyber risk mitigation activities. The agency still hasn't developed those metrics.

The Treasury Department said the same problem that prevented it from developing metrics five years ago remains – the reluctance of financial services firms to share their mitigation data.

The GAO recommended the department track and prioritize industry risk and mitigation efforts and update the sector-specific plan to include specific metrics to measure the progress of industry mitigation efforts.

"Although Treasury generally agrees with GAO's recommendations, we caution that, in its [sector-specific agency] capacity, Treasury does not have the authority to implement them," said David Lacquement, deputy assistant secretary of cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection at the Treasury Department in reply comments to GAO.

The Treasury Department, Lacquement said, could issue a voluntary survey to the industry asking for the data, assuring the companies the results wouldn't be publicly released.