IG: OPM could put up a better defense against cyber attacks

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  • The Office of Personnel Management fell short in securing its systems against potential cyber attacks. A new audit by the inspector general found the Office of Personnel Management’s financial management systems lack some basic cybersecurity protections. Auditors say the agency’s information systems control environment is a material weakness because OPM hasn’t fully implemented both general-level and application-level controls. For example, the IG says OPM didn’t have a system in place to identify and generate a complete and accurate listing of contractors and their employment status. Additionally, the IG found OPM didn’t appropriately provision and de-provision users’ access to the network based on their work status. Auditors made 20 recommendations for OPM to fix this material weakness. (Office of Personnel Management Office of Inspector General)
  • OPM reminded agencies, state and local minimum wage rates don’t apply to federal employees. OPM says it’s gotten several questions about minimum wage rates since many states have raised theirs well past the federal rate of $7.25. But the Fair Labor Standards Act supersedes other similar state laws that set minimum wages. The vast majority of General Schedule employees make an hourly wage that’s above the federal and most state minimum wages. But there are some exceptions. (Federal News Network)
  • There’s a new top 25 list and you better hope your laptop or mobile phone aren’t on it. The Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology Directorate and MITRE have updated the list of the most dangerous software errors. It provides the most widespread and critical weaknesses that can lead to serious vulnerabilities in software, and are easily exploited to steal data or take over a device. DHS and MITRE hadn’t revised the top 25 software errors list in eight years. (MITRE)
  • A group of federal employee unions and organizations want senators to stop worrying about the Thrift Savings Plan and the international fund. A bipartisan group of senators have been critical of the TSP’s plan to move the I fund to a new benchmark which includes emerging markets like China. The senators have introduced new legislation that would prevent the TSP from moving the I fund to a new benchmark. But the Employee Thrift Advisory Council is urging senators to reconsider their legislation. The council says it would be fiscally irresponsible to divest from a fund that’s consistently outpaced developed markets over the past 15 years. (Federal News Network)
  • Health and Human Services might have overpaid hospitals to the tune of $14 billion. The HSS inspector general looked at four years of what are known as outlier payments, payments to hospitals for high-cost patients. The IG found the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reimbursed hospitals for thousands of claims that were based on outdated quarterly cost reports. In CMS parlance, the claims weren’t properly reconciled. The IG recommends more timely reconciliation so claims and costs are better synchronized. (Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General)
  • The Air National Guard is updating the name and methods of its continuing education division. The Air National Guard’s Training and Education Center will now be called TEC University. It’s to signify a new approach of listening to the requests from Air Guard service members themselves. TEC University serves more than 107,000 airmen. (Air National Guard Training and Education Center)
  • Veterans Affairs says it’s ready to process new education and housing benefits under the Forever GI bill. VA told members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, it can begin making payments to students under the new law. VA was supposed to start implementing the new GI bill last year, But the department had to reset and push back its own deadline until Dec. 1. VA’s legacy IT systems couldn’t handle the changes the department needed to comply with the GI bill. The department says it’ll begin to correct housing records next year. (House Veterans Affairs Committee)
  • The Defense Department says some of its most critical installations are at risk for water shortages, but figuring out which ones is complicated. The Government Accountability Office says the Pentagon hasn’t followed best practices – like identifying all existing and future sources of water – to zero in on water scarcity threats on its bases. Because of that, three separate DoD reports over the past several years came to very different conclusions about which ones are most at risk. GAO says the military services have done reasonable assessments of their own water vulnerabilities, but DoD won’t commit to adopting the same methodologies. (Government Accountability Office)
  • Military working dogs will now have some extra hearing protection when riding in helicopters. The Army Research Lab has teamed up with Zeteo Tech, a small business based in Maryland, to create a sleeve with special noise resistant padding that fits over dogs’ heads and protects their ears from a large range of frequencies. The Army says the invention help dogs serve longer and give them a better quality of life. (Federal News Network)

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