In a rather ironic turn of events, the US Department for Homeland Security has found itself having to admit to Congress that it has been subject to the odd one or two minor security problems in-house.

Well, I say one or two. Actually the figure is more than 800.

Well, I say minor security problems. Actually the attacks cover everything from full scale hacking attempts through to virus outbreaks and spyware infection and lost laptops.

OK, so let us get this into perspective.

From the perspective of the US Government and Department for Homeland Security it is no big deal because all of the problem apparently have involved unclassified networks. DHS officials have promised Congress that they will try harder though, which is comforting for the millions of US citizens who trust them to protect the nation from the terrorist threat.

From the perspective of the IT security journalist, it is a big deal. Quite apart from the fact that if any official body should have its own security locked down tighter than a Scottish purse then it is this one, there is the small matter of those unclassified networks carrying classified material. Oh yes, in what is officially described in twee terms as classified spillage, the DHS have also admitted that some secret information was indeed sent across those very same unclassified networks which have been compromised. When the nature of that compromise includes the discovery of hacker executables and spyware applications for sending information to the outside world, located on internal computer systems, this becomes more than a procedural hiccup.

Commenting on the revelations, Calum Macleod, European Director for Cyber-Ark, a company specialising in protecting sensitive data for companies, warns that this should be a warning to everyone. “It highlights the need for extreme vigilance when company and customer data is involved” he told me, continuing “it is to be hoped that the agency practices what it preaches and keeps its critical data in a digital safe that is heavily encrypted."

Especially when, talking about an entirely different matter a couple of days ago but which could quite easily have been someone commenting upon this astonishing security situation that is unfolding before Congress, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff says "secure documents are a national imperative."

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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