The massive breach of Office of Personnel Management systems that compromised the personal data of millions of Americans is still making headlines. But behind those headlines is a much bigger story about the government's systematic failure to protect itself from cybersecurity risks that have expanded at an alarming rate.
Perhaps nothing illustrates the challenge facing the government better than this chart from a Government Accountability Office testimony released in April that shows the number of information security incidents reported by federal government agencies in recent years:
Reports exploded between fiscal year 2006 and 2014, going from 5,503 to 67,168 -- an increase of over 1,100 percent, according to the testimony.
Not all of those incidents represent breaches -- and only 27,624 of the incidents reported in 2014 involved personally identifiable information, the agency said. It's also possible that the chart actually shows the government is getting better at detecting when it has problems, rather than just actually having more problems. But it still clearly has some problems in that area, as evidenced by the OPM breach not being discovered until months after the initial incident, according to reporting by The Post and others.
And either way, the chart helps explain just how much constant vigilance is required to protect government systems. Unfortunately, the same testimony warned that government systems might not be up to the task:
For fiscal year 2014, 19 of 24 major federal agencies reported that deficiencies in information security controls constituted either a material weakness or significant deficiency in internal controls over their financial reporting. In addition, inspectors general at 23 of these agencies cited information security as a major management challenge for their agency.