General Accountability Office


Opportunities Exist for SEC to Improve Its Controls over Financial Systems and Data Read full text in English

2016 report GAO-16-493

The SEC is responsible for enforcing securities laws, issuing rules and regulations that provide protection for investors, and helping to ensure that the securities markets are fair and honest. In carrying out its mission, the SEC relies on computerized information systems to collect, process, and store sensitive information, including financial data. Having effective information security controls in place is essential to protecting these systems and the information they contain.
This report details weaknesses GAO identified in the information security program at SEC during its audit of the commission’s fiscal years 2015 and 2014 financial statements. GAO’s objective was to determine the effectiveness of information security controls for protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of SEC’s key financial systems and information. To do this, GAO examined information security policies, plans, and procedures; tested controls over key financial applications; interviewed agency officials; and assessed corrective actions taken to address previously reported weaknesses.

In the report

- The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) improved its information security by addressing weaknesses previously identified by GAO, including separating the user production network from the internal management network.

In the report page 2

- While SEC had issued policies and implemented controls based on those policies, it did not consistently protect access to its systems. Organizations should design and implement controls to prevent, limit, and detect unauthorized access to computer resources. The commission did not consistently protect its network from possible intrusions, identify and authenticate users, authorize access to resources, audit and monitor actions taken on its systems and network, and restrict physical access to sensitive assets.

- These weaknesses existed in part because SEC had not fully implemented an organization-wide information security program, as called for by federal law and guidance. In particular, the commission had not (1) consistently reviewed and updated its information security policies in a timely manner, (2) completely documented plans of action to address weaknesses, (3) documented a physical inventory of its systems and applications, and (4) fully implemented a program to continuously monitor the security of its systems and networks.

In the report page 2

- The commission did not consistently manage the configuration of its systems. Configuration management includes ensuring that hardware and software are configured with appropriate security features and that changes are systematically controlled. However, SEC did not maintain and monitor official configuration baselines for its financial systems and general support system.

In the report page 2

- The commission did not always appropriately separate incompatible duties. Separation of duties involves dividing responsibilities so that a single individual does not control all critical stages of a process. However, SEC did not adequately separate duties among its three computing environments.

In the report page 2

- While SEC had developed contingency and disaster recovery plans for its information systems, those plans were not fully reviewed, completed, or up-to-date. Contingency and disaster recovery planning are essential to resuming operations in the event of a disruption or disaster.

The risk cases visible on this page are collected and described by the e-Government Subgroup of the EUROSAI IT Working Group in contact with author Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI). In the same way, analytical assumptions and headings are chosen by the Subgroup. We encourage you to read the original texts by SAIs - to be found in the linked files.