Downtime, data loss, and system failure are all tale-tell signs of a breach or cybersecurity incident. As cyber criminals use more and more sophisticated technologies to chip away at the best-laid cybersecurity plans, these incidences are happening with greater frequency across both private and public enterprises – including the U.S. Federal government. What causes these incidents and how can they be prevented? We’ve put together a list of some of the most common reasons why government cybersecurity can fail.
You assume your agency, mission, or data would not be a worthwhile target.
The U.S. government is a sprawling enterprise, with myriad agencies moving forward with highly specialized missions. It’s tempting to think that cyber criminals would only be interested in the “juicy” and high-profile targets, but that’s a mistake. The goal of a hacker might be to steal sensitive data, disrupt the flow of normal operations, gain access to secured systems, inflict reputational damage on the government, and more. Even the smallest agency or organization can be a tempting target for such acts.
You don’t invest enough in cybersecurity.
One of the greatest liabilities to the mission is a failure to invest adequately into robust and advanced cybersecurity solutions. A lack of funding can hamper an agency’s ability to meet the evolving challenge of government cybersecurity. Budgeting for improved tools and resources is one thing, but it also takes dedicated time and personnel to ensure the tools are properly installed, comprehensively protective, and properly maintained.
You set it up once, then forget about it.
Cybersecurity requires constant vigilance, as threats and risks continually evolve. Instead of installing security software and checking the task off your list, agencies must be far more proactive in their approach to cybersecurity – keeping on top of patches, updates, and upgrades to solutions like firewalls, antivirus software, authentication protocols, email and endpoint security, and any application used to forward the mission. It’s best practice to conduct routine penetration testing and vulnerability scans, so you can identify any gaps or weaknesses before criminals can exploit them.
You don’t maintain a comprehensive accounting or inventory of your assets and systems.
Agencies rely on countless applications and systems to conduct the government’s business, yet it’s easy to overlook many of these when compiling a list of all endpoints. Be thorough. From on-premise servers to cloud infrastructure, and from company-wide communication systems to personal electronics, each of these must be considered a potential vulnerability to be protected. With the proliferation of bring-your-own devices during remote work, the challenge is that much greater.
You presume all security compliance requirements are met.
Cybersecurity is an ongoing process and the goal posts for full security compliance keep moving. With the array of compliance frameworks, including FISMA and FedRAMP, to which government agencies and their supporting contractors must adhere, it becomes crucial to continually review and revise an agency’s approach to security compliance. It’s not good enough to just assume you are in full compliance. It must be tested and proven often.
You don’t actively map and prioritize possible organizational threats.
What are your biggest vulnerabilities? Where could possible threats arise? How are you keeping up with rapidly advancing technologies deployed by cyber criminals? Answering these questions is critical to staying on top of cybersecurity. Each Federal agency is unique and will have different answers to these questions. By staying at the forefront of what could happen, you’ll be better positioned to manage cybersecurity risk in real-time.
You aren’t fully supported by management.
It’s sometimes easy for an IT or cybersecurity manager to feel like they’re shouting into the void. Understandably, agency directors are focused on achieving the mission at hand, but this shouldn’t come at the cost of senior-level focus on the importance of cybersecurity. The fact is, without a robust security framework in place, all other plans and activities are at exponentially greater risk for failure. The IT team should be involved in all aspects of agency operations.
You don’t train and involve all personnel in cybersecurity.
The greatest liability to many organizations is their own employees. This can sometimes take the form of rogue or malevolent actors, but most often, it’s everyday employees that don’t know they’ve become a weak link. Whether that’s an improperly secured access point on a personal device, or a lazy password, or a single click on a phishing email, most cybersecurity breaches involve some form of human element. Regular training for all employees, from the agency directors on down to the summer interns, is imperative.
Your incident response plan is outdated…or non-existent.
The best-prepared government agencies have a thoughtfully-considered and regularly-updated incident response plan that guides how they respond to an attack, breach, system failure, or data loss. This plan should include how to regain full access internally and how to eliminate the threat, as well as how the incident is communicated across the agency and with the public. Backups and seamless failsafe rollovers are an integral part of a robust cybersecurity plan.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
It’s so important to have qualified, experienced, and forward-looking cybersecurity experts in your corner, providing real-time guidance and technical know-how that addresses your unique security requirements. A cybersecurity expert can answer questions, prompt discussions, provide rapid assistance, and guide an organization on their cybersecurity journey.
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