DOE Watchdog Detailed Its Cybersecurity State Amid SolarWinds Hack


Recommendations the Energy Department’s Inspector General made for improving information security align with the focus of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency following a massive hacking campaign that leveraged software from government-contracted network management company SolarWinds.

The DOE IG report out March 25 in accordance with the Federal Information Security Modernization Act covers the period from March 2020—right after hackers deployed the malware—to January 2021, just after initial breaches were reported. The IG’s office didn’t draw any conclusions based on the timing but said it would track potential impacts from the event.

“Subsequent to our test work, it was reported that Federal agencies, including the Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration, encountered a serious and sophisticated cybersecurity attack,” the report reads. “Due to the timing of our review, we did not evaluate the circumstances surrounding any potential impact to the Department or the National Nuclear Security Administration, or how such an attack could have impacted our results, if at all. We will continue to follow developments related to any potential impact as we continue our future test work.”

But the report’s findings and recommendations echoed many of the pitfalls highlighted by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in alerts and directives following the SolarWinds hack and subsequent breaches of on-premises servers for Microsoft Exchange. 

The inclusion of the National Nuclear Security Administration among the list of impacted entities alarmed many due to its role in managing the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. The IG’s report does not name specific locations where it identified issues but noted that the report was based on 28 department locations under the purview of the NNSA, the Under Secretary for Science and Energy, the Energy Information Administration, and certain staff offices. 

In all, the IG’s office made 83 recommendations regarding access controls, the management of configurations and vulnerabilities and the system integrity of web applications. And while the report noted that the department closed…

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