Information Technology:

Federal Laws, Regulations, and Mandatory Standards to Securing Private Sector Information Technology Systems and Data in Critical Infrastructure Sectors

GAO-08-1075R: Published: Sep 16, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 16, 2008.

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David A. Powner
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Federal policy identifies 18 infrastructure sectors--such as banking and finance, energy, public health and healthcare, and telecommunications--that are critical to the nation's security, economy, public health, and safety. Because these sectors rely extensively on computerized information systems and electronic data, it is crucial that the security of these systems and data is maintained. Further, because most of these infrastructures are owned by the private sector, it is imperative that public and private entities work together to protect these assets. The federal government uses both voluntary partnerships with private industry and requirements in federal laws, regulations, and mandatory standards to assist in the security of privately owned information technology (IT) systems and data within critical infrastructure sectors. As agreed, our objectives were to (1) identify, for each critical infrastructure sector, the federal laws, regulations, and mandatory standards that pertain to securing that sector's privately owned IT systems and data and (2) identify enforcement mechanisms for each of the above laws, regulations, and mandatory standards.

There are at least 34 federal laws, regulations, and mandatory standards that pertain to securing privately owned IT systems and data in our nation's critical infrastructure sectors. Of the 34, 1 is a law, 25 are regulations, and 8 are mandatory standards. These requirements pertain to 10 of the 18 critical infrastructure sectors, including the agriculture and food; energy; nuclear reactors, materials, and waste; and transportation systems sectors. Each of the 34 federal legal requirements has at least one enforcement mechanism. These mechanisms include court injunctions, civil monetary penalties, criminal penalties, and administrative actions, such as license revocation and suspension. Typically, these mechanisms are what agencies use to enforce requirements in general, and are not necessarily specific to the requirements for securing privately owned IT systems and data.

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