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State Department admits to flaws in computer system

graphic March 23, 1998
Web posted at: 9:59 p.m. EST (0259 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The State Department said it is working to improve the security of its unclassified computer systems after the General Accounting Office found "vulnerabilities" in it late last year.

But contrary to a report in Monday's USA Today, a spokesman said that none of the department's systems have been shut down and there is no evidence that a hacker has breached the system's security.

Spokesman Jim Foley said the department takes the GAO findings, which were completed 10 days ago, very seriously and that a number of flaws have already been corrected.

The newspaper reported Monday that a GAO investigation had found data indicating that an unauthorized person had gained access to computers at two overseas posts, causing the department to shut down at least part of one of its international computer systems.

The computers are part of a system that links computers in Washington holding "unclassified but sensitive" information with 250 U.S. embassies and consulates.

The newspaper said that for much of last October, the State Department sent couriers around the world with sensitive information on paper and limited access to the computers in question.

The location of the posts could not be confirmed.

But Foley said Monday that the department has "no information that there actually was a hacker" who gained access to the two computers.

He also said there was no indication that any of the State Department systems, whether classified or unclassified, domestic or overseas, had been shut down under any circumstances.


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