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At the same time that concerns about computer security and terrorism are at a heightened state, the federal government has received an overall “D” grade on a federal computer security report card just prepared for Adam Putnam, chairman of a subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Department of Homeland Security received an “F” grade. Obviously, much work needs to be done, and quickly. STATEMENT OF THE CHAIRMAN In his statement accompanying the report card, Putnam said that “for too long now information security has taken a back seat in the collective conscience of our nation,” and that “we must come to the stark realization that a major Achilles heel is our computer networks.” Unfortunately, according to Putnam, “the history of our nation — in heeding warnings of imminent danger — doesn’t lend itself to much optimism.” Putnam added that “the tragic events of 9/11 were foreshadowed by a number of signs that were ignored or not taken seriously.” Putnam, who said “the writing once again is on the wall” and urged action and promised the resources of his committee “to doing everything we can to ensure we adequately protect our nation against cyberattack.” THE REPORT CARD The federal computer security report card shows that Putnam’s subcommittee and practically the entire federal government have a long way to go. Starting at the bottom, the following branches of government received an “F” grade: Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice and Department of Energy. Moving slightly up the grading scale, NASA and Office of Personnel Management each received a “D minus” grade. Barely above them were Department of Treasury, General Services Administration, and Department of Defense with a “D” each. Hardly better: Department of Transportation with a “D plus.” Not quite as bad were the Department of Commerce, Small Business Administration and Agency for International Development, with each getting a “C minus” grade, while Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Veteran Affairs each received a “C” and the Department of Education a “C plus.” Toward the top of the grading curve were Department of Labor with a “B,” Social Security Administration with a “B plus,” and National Science Foundation with an “A minus.” The only “A” went to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Believe it or not, these grades were an improvement over last year’s grades. FIX IT! Those results, if they represent an accurate picture, are unacceptable. Putnam said, “We must do more and do it quicker if we are going to protect ourselves.” He plans to meet with federal agency chief information officers to develop plans of actions and milestones, and said he’ll seek out appropriations to adequately fund information security. Better get a move on! Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris ( www.duanemorris.com), where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology disputes. Mr. Sinrod’s Web site is www.sinrodlaw.com, and he can be reached at [email protected] . To receive a weekly e-mail link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please type Subscribe in the subject line of an e-mail to be sent to [email protected] .

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