Temperature at O'Hare Could Fry DHS Computers

Homeland Security Department internal investigators recently found many computer security deficiencies at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago -- mostly having to do with insufficient air conditioning.

In three of the five Customs and Border Protection server rooms probed, "the temperature was higher and the humidity was lower than recommended by the DHS 4300A Handbook," states a redacted March inspector general review. "In addition, several of the server rooms and wire closets did not contain temperature or humidity sensors."

CBP officers and agricultural specialists assigned to the airport, one of the busiest in the nation, review cargo manifests, inbound mail processing, and flight data for indications of terrorist activity.

Besides the poor air quality, CBP has bad feng shui as well.

"CBP has placed telecommunications equipment in rooms containing water heaters. If these water heaters malfunction, there is a risk that CBP's telecommunications equipment could suffer water damage, preventing users from accessing the IT resources they need to perform their mission," the report states.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices also demonstrated poor structural design. ICE agents on location are responsible for investigating attempts to sabotage critical infrastructure. And they probe criminal conspiracies involving employees at companies that do business in the airport. Agents also are charged with intercepting currency smugglers and narcotics trafficking.

"One of ICE's server rooms did not have automated fire suppression or a smoke detector," the examination states. "Additionally, there was excess storage in this room. Further, there were no temperature or humidity sensors."

The IG felt the inclement conditions in CBP and ICE rooms were severe enough to potentially damage sensitive elements of computer systems.

ICE officials replied that it will be hard to remedy the situation because the building manager has not agreed to renovate its office suite and there are no funds to relocate. CBP officials agreed to move two racks, relocate cables and purchase temperature and humidity sensors, but these solutions are all dependent on funding availability.