3 solutions for the federal cybersecurity challenge [Commentary]


Despite what the headlines might suggest, there are many reasons for the U.S. to be optimistic for the future when it comes to cybersecurity. A recent study found that while cyberattacks on U.S. government agencies continues to rise, we are getting better at responding to them. Agencies are nervous about the future, particularly given the continually increasing sophistication of threats, resource constraints agencies have and the need for more and better trained cybersecurity workers, but there are solutions to help agencies along.

Solution 1: Continuous Monitoring and Advanced Authentication

Going forward, agencies need to look at ways to improve how users are managed while monitoring and maintaining security systems to prevent future cyberattacks. Advanced authentication and continuous monitoring paired together can help agencies better manage who’s accessing what important information agencies hold while making sure that cyber threats can be detected ahead of time.

With two-factor authentication, agencies can better mitigate external and insider threats by making it more difficult to steal identities or access important information. An advanced authentication solution can allow you to set different use policies and controls for different users. For example, agencies could set up a policy that requires one specific team to complete two-factor authentication only once every 30 days, as long as they log in using a trusted device or network. This is more convenient for users who don’t have privileged access to sensitive information; ensuring quick, easy and secure access.

In addition to advanced authentication, agencies also need to take advantage of the Department of Homeland Security’s Continuous Diagnostic and Mitigation (CDM) program. The CDM program provides federal departments and agencies with capabilities and tools that identify cybersecurity risks on an ongoing basis, prioritize these risks based upon potential impacts and enable cybersecurity personnel to mitigate the most significant problems first.

Tools to help enhance the impacts of continuous monitoring and advanced authentication include site defenders. They can help by offering built-in scalability and global reach to help agencies fend off large attacks, like DDoS, while protecting web applications from direct-to-origin attacks. Site defenders can help maintain website performance and availability even when confronted with fast-changing threats.

Solution 2: Cloud-based Platforms

Whether internal or external, users expect online experiences to always be available and secure and for their personal information to be safe. Cloud-based platforms can help protect government data without sacrificing performance for security.

Cloud monitoring platforms offer the ability to easily integrate transaction and security event data from multiple, disparate systems into a centralized reporting environment. Additionally, such platforms allow leaders to gain instant visibility to application usage across application portfolios, regardless of where the applications are hosted.

Agencies can enhance security with easier monitoring of detailed application performance, usage and end-user experience for all applications in the cloud. Cloud monitoring tools and platforms can also help monitor web security events and incidents across your environment while gaining deep insights into application transactions.

As outlined in President Obama’s 2011 Cloud First Policy, cloud computing has the potential to play a major role in addressing the inefficiencies in government’s IT environment while improving government service delivery. Cloud computing platforms can help agencies grappling with the need to provide highly reliable, innovative services quickly despite resource constraints.

Solution 3: Improve Employee Education and Hiring

To address the cyber skills gap, agencies need to accelerate learning and skills development; diversify the cybersecurity community; and provide career development opportunities within the cybersecurity field. DHS provides a Cybersecurity Workforce Development Toolkit to help better prepare them in recruiting and training their cyber workforce.

But it’s important to note that building an adequate cyber workforce in government will take serious time, energy and resources. To address immediate cybersecurity priorities, a combination of cutting-edge attack detection and mitigation technology enhanced by managed web security services can help make the job easier for IT teams and agency-wide staff. Managed web security consists of outsourced services specifically designed to give agencies a proactive defense against data breaches, DDoS attacks and the complete evolving landscape of emerging cyber threats. Seasoned web security experts on a provider’s security team can help detect and mitigate attacks. They can also act as web security consultants who ensure that web applications and network systems are always up-to-date and protected against emerging threats.

As agencies steadily recruit, build and educate their cyber workforce, managed web services can supplement immediate cybersecurity needs for the time being. At the same time, agencies should not stop developing tactics to recruit and train more cyber professionals for the long-term.

The U.S government has many reasons to be worried about the future, but just as many reasons to be optimistic. While the sophistication of threats, constrained resources and lack of education in the cyber workforce remain persistent challenges, there are many innovative solutions that agencies can use to overcome them.