Office of Children and Family Services
Office for Technology

Security of the CONNECTIONS System Supporting Child Welfare Services

The Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), together with 58 local social services districts, administers programs that protect children against abuse and neglect, and provide temporary and permanent homes for children in the State’s custody. The administration of these child welfare programs is supported by the CONNECTIONS system, an automated information system that connects OCFS with the local districts. The CONNECTIONS system operates on the statewide Network, which is used by several State agencies and is administered by the New York State Office for Technology (OFT). Since some of the information in the CONNECTIONS system is sensitive and confidential, care must be taken to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to the system. We evaluated the controls over this access and identified a number of weaknesses.

For example, even though OCFS is required by federal regulations to take certain actions promoting the security of the CONNECTIONS system, we found that, for the most part, OCFS had yet to take these actions, which include developing a security plan for the system, designating a security manager for the system, and conducting period risk assessments of system security. We also identified security weaknesses in each of the six local districts we visited, and determined that some of the security features intended by OFT to control access to the Network provided a lower level of security than is recommended. As a result of these various weaknesses, the confidentiality of sensitive child welfare information is not adequately protected. We recommended a number of actions that could be taken to address these weaknesses.

For a complete copy of Report 2000-S-51 click here.