In a follow up to a previous article highlighting how Chinese hackers attack U.S. networks, another story has hit the news headlines describing how former background investigation contractor USIS failed to detect a security breach by Chinese hackers who penetrated USIS information system firewalls for several months. The hackers gained access to personally identifiable information (PII) on security clearance applications before being found out. Some of the information that was compromised included the security records of 25,000 Department of Homeland Security employees.
The Office of the Director or National Intelligence (ODNI) recently published a fact sheet on their website outlining some changes being implemented regarding the way that the Continuous Evaluation Program (CEP) will be conducted on security clearance holders. These changes were effected as a result of clearance reform initiatives that identified gaps in between investigation cycles where conduct of potential concern went unnoticed or unreported. Initially the current focus of these changes are for select agencies that have individuals who hold Top Secret/Special Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) clearances, but the program eventually will be expanded to include all TS/SCI access holders.
Congressional lawmakers have been busy this year trying to push through several new changes to security clearance oversight and processes. As is usual in Washington politics, a number of proposals were generated to create the appearance that actual reform was the main goal. A recent article posted by Defenseone.com discussed the various proposals from Capitol Hill and outlined their current status.
A year after the Washington Navy Yard shootings security clearance process reform is moving forward, albeit slowly and methodically. A recent Washington Post article highlighted the progress already made in certain areas, but also came to the conclusion that there is still quite a bit of work to be done before any meaningful changes are effected. Among the changes underway are reducing the number of clearance holders to those that actually need them, decreasing the intervals in between reinvestigations, and updating the continuous evaluation process to make it more robust and effective.