The Department of Homeland Security had 844 computer-security problems in fiscal 2005 and 2006 that could have given terrorists and countries such as China access to secret information, according to a report.
There were "significant" security breaches at the department, said Rep. Jim Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat, at a hearing yesterday. The report was by the General Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.
Langevin, who is chairman of a committee that studies emerging threats and network security, says the agency spends only 6.8 percent of its technology budget on security when it should spend about 20 percent.
"In spite of the significant vulnerabilities in its systems, the department doesn't appear to be in any rush to fix them," Langevin said at the hearing.
"Terrorists or nation states could be hacking Department of Homeland Security databases, changing or altering their names to allow them access to this country, and we wouldn't even know they were doing it."
Langevin said the department's security problems included malicious files, backdoor Trojan horses that permit hacker control, viruses, user IDs and passwords found on printouts, classified e-mails sent over unclassified networks, and the installation of unauthorized software.
China is developing viruses to attack U.S. computer systems, Langevin said, pointing to Defense Department information.
After the terrorist attacks of 2001, the U.S. reorganized 22 federal agencies, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, into the Homeland Security Department.