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[O]ffice of [M]isguided [B]ureaucrats – Going through the Privacy Motions

Like most folks, I’ve been preoccupied with doing nothing over the last few days, so please excuse the tardiness of this entry.  Looks like Alan Shimmel and I are suffering from the same infection of laziness 😉

So, now that the 4 racks of ribs are in the smoker pending today’s festivities celebrating my country’s birth, I find it appropriate to write about this debacle now that my head’s sorted.

When I read this article several days ago regarding the standards that the OMB was "requiring" of federal civilian agencies, I was dismayed (but not surprised) to discover that once again this was another set of toothless "guidelines" meant to dampen the public outrage surrounding the recent string of privacy breaches/disclosures recently. 

For those folks whose opinion it is that we can rest easily and put faith in our government’s ability to federalize legislation and enforcement regarding privacy and security, I respectfully suggest that this recent OMB PR Campaign announcement is one of the most profound illustrations of why that suggestion is about the most stupid thing in the universe. 

Look, I realize that these are "civilian" agencies of our government, but the last time I checked, the "civilian" and "military/intelligence" arms were at least governed by the same set of folks whose responsibility it is to ensure that we, as citizens, are taken care of.  This means that at certain levels, what’s good for the goose is good for the foie gras…kick down some crumbs!

We don’t necessarily need Type 1 encryption for the Dept. of Agriculture, but how about a little knowledge transfer, information sharing and reasonable due care, fellas?  Help a brother out!


The article started off well enough…45 days to implement what should have been implemented years ago:

To comply with the new policy, agencies will have to encrypt all data
on laptop or handheld computers unless the data are classified as
"non-sensitive" by an agency’s deputy director.
Agency employees also
would need two-factor authentication — a password plus a physical
device such as a key card — to reach a work database through a remote
connection, which must be automatically severed after 30 minutes of

Buahahaha!  That’s great.  Is the agency’s deputy director going to personally inspect every file, database transaction and email on every laptop/handheld in his agency?  No, of course not.  Is this going to prevent disclosure and data loss from occuring?  Nope.  It may make it more difficult, but there is no silver bullet.

Again, this is why data classification doesn’t work.  If they knew where the data was and where it was going in the first place, it wouldn’t go missing, now would it?  I posted about this very problem here.

Gee, for a $1.50 and a tour of the white house I could have drafted this.  In fact, I did in a blog post a couple of weeks ago 😉

But here’s the rub in the next paragraph:

OMB said agencies are expected to have the measures in place within 45
days, and that it would work with agency inspectors general to ensure
compliance. It stopped short of calling the changes "requirements,"
choosing instead to label them "recommendations" that were intended "to
compensate for the protections offered by the physical security
controls when information is removed from, or accessed from outside of
the agency location."

Compensate for the protections offered by the physical security controls!?  You mean like the ones that allowed for the removal of data lost in these breaches in the first place!?  Jesus.

I just love this excerpt from the OMB’s document:

Most departments and agencies have these measures already in place.  We intend to work with the Inspectors General community to review these items as well as the checklist to ensure we are properly safeguarding the information the American taxpayer has entrusted to us.  Please ensure these safeguards have been reviewed and are in place within the next 45 days.

Oh really!?  Are the Dept. of the Navy, the Dept. of Agricultre, the IRS among those departments who have these measures in place?  And I love how polite they can be now that tens of millions of taxpayer’s personal information has been displaced…"Please ensure these safeguards…"  Thanks!

Look, grow a pair, stop spending $600 on toilet seats, give these joes some funding to make it stick, make the damned "recommendations" actual "requirements," audit them like you audit the private sector for SoX, and prehaps the idiots running these organizations will take their newfound budgetary allotments and actually improve upon rediculous information security scorecards such as these:


I don’t mean to come off like I’m whining about all of this, but perhaps we should just outsource government agency security to the private sector.  It would be good for the economy and although it would become a vendor love-fest, I reckon we’d have better than a D+…


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