US government ‘will struggle’ with White House data encryption deadline

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US government ‘will struggle’ with White House data encryption deadline

Tash Shifrin

An August deadline for US government agencies to encrypt all sensitive data may be too tight, security experts have warned.

The White House demand for encryption of sensitive information follows the theft of US Department of Veterans Affairs data on 26.5 million former soldiers.

An investigation by the department’s inspector general, George Opfer last week slammed a series of mistakes, poor security measures and an overall lack of care, after the data taken home by an analyst on a laptop was stolen in a burglary.

Opfer also criticised a chain of officials, up to the department’s deputy secretary Gordon Mansfield, for waiting nearly three weeks to reveal the burglary, putting veterans and active personnel at risk of identity fraud.

US government departments have now been given just 45 days to put encryption measures in place to prevent similar data securtity breaches. But encryption software firm PGP warned that this may not be enough time.

“We’re in favour – it’s a good move that the White House is getting serious about encrypting data,” said PGP’s EMEA marketing manager Jamie Cowper.

But he added, “The 45-day window may be a little prohibitive to actually getting it done.”

He queries whether sufficient funds had been made available – and whether the money had been pushed out to the various departments. “Have they done an internal audit to see what needs to be encrypted? Are there technology guidelines?” he asked.

Cowper warned, “Forty-five days is going to be a very tough deadline.”

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