Information Security:

Software Change Controls at the Department of State

AIMD-00-199R: Published: Jun 30, 2000. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 2000.

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Joel C. Willemssen
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the software change controls at the Department of State, focusing on: (1) whether key controls as described in agency policies and procedures regarding software change authorization, testing, and approval complied with federal guidance; and (2) the extent to which agencies contracted for year 2000 remediation of mission-critical systems and involved foreign nationals in these efforts.

GAO noted that: (1) according to State officials, background checks of personnel involved in the software change process were a routine security control for federal, contractor, and foreign national personnel involved in making changes to software; (2) also, officials told GAO that all 19 contracts included provisions for background checks of contractor staff; (3) this is important because 4 of these contracts for remediation services involved foreign nationals; (4) GAO identified weaknesses regarding formal policies and procedures and contract oversight; (5) all three State components told GAO that they followed State's departmentwide formally documented guidance for software change control, but GAO found that this guidance did not adequately address key software change controls; (6) specifically, the guidance did not address: (a) operating system software access and monitoring; and (b) application software library controls for labelling and taking inventory of software programs; (7) agency officials were not familiar with contractor practices for software management; (8) this is of potential concern because all 43 of State's mission-critical systems involved the use of contractors for year 2000 remediation; and (9) all three State components sent code associated with 18 mission-critical systems to contractor facilities for remediation, and agency officials could not readily determine how the code was protected during and after transit to the contractor facility, when the code was out of State's direct control.

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