5 Effective Ways Federal Cybersecurity Can Be Improved

Federal agencies have access to sensitive information. It is the reason these agencies are prime targets of cyber-attacks. These attacks are often conducted by hackers and cybercriminals to compromise national security.

Despite risks, federal cybersecurity isn’t as adequate as it should be in this age. According to the most recent report by the Office of Management and Budget, 71 out of 96 federal agencies assessed were found to be at risk of a security breach. The agencies lack a solid cybersecurity program to detect, prevent, or mitigate risk. Cyber resources aren’t just limited but also ineffectively allocated. This lack of cybersecurity within agencies puts holes in the overall Federal security network.

There have been numerous attacks on federal agencies over the past few years. There is a dire need to improve federal cybersecurity to protect sensitive information pertaining to the state and the people of the United States. To implement a strong security program, there is a need to identify the common issues that lead to bleak and weak security programs.

Common Factors behind Federal Cybersecurity Incidents

There are four major reasons behind the persisting lack of cybersecurity across federal agencies.

  • Agencies lack situational awareness when it comes to security. They fail to gauge the number or nature of threats they face and end up with less than required resources to deal with threats.
  • Cybersecurity processes and IT capabilities are not standardized in most agencies. This lack of standardization effects their capability to combat threats.
  • Most federal agencies have limited network visibility, which makes it impossible to realize what is going on within their network. This makes data infiltration attempts undetectable.
  • Lack of accountability is one of the major reasons behind the failing state of federal cybersecurity.

 

Ways to Improve Federal Cybersecurity

Identification of the major reasons behind the weak cybersecurity structure within federal agencies is the first step towards making effective changes. Here are five effective measures the government can take to ensure strong cybersecurity.

 

1.   Timely Data Reporting and Communication

Federal agencies can improve situational awareness by ensuring timely data reporting and effective communication flow. This allows IT security heads of all the agencies to take preventive measures against possible attacks and breaches. With timely information regarding risks, it is possible to prioritize process and improve resource allocation. Utilization of a common cyber threat framework can play a vital role in improving the flow of information across the federal network. The government should create and implement a framework that can provide insightful information to the agency heads and decision makers. It will also enable them to detect threats and take immediate measures to direct resources towards mitigation.

 

2.    Standardized IT and Cybersecurity Capabilities

Standardization should be the top priority for federal agencies. One of the major problems that arise from the lack of standardization is the inability to create and implement a single solution for specific security challenges faced across the federal network. The government should whitelist software and applications to prevent cyber attacks related to malware. Whitelisting and standardization can help agencies steer clear of software with malicious code or vulnerabilities.

 

3.    Consolidated Security Operations Center

Consolidating the processes and capabilities of the Security Operations Center will help federal agencies improve their visibility into the network. It will improve the ability to detect data infiltration attempts. Not only will it help them prevent attacks through immediate measures, but it will also allow them to minimize the damage in case of an attack. Consolidation will centralize information sharing as there will be one principal SOC accountable for incident response activities across an agency. Also, one agency can be designated as the SOC Center of Excellence and will provide secure data storage and access as a service to other federal agencies.

 

4.    Accountability at Every Level

A problem that plagues the security structure across the federal front is the lack of accountability. The number of breaches faced by the federal agencies is worrisome but it is rare to see anyone held responsible for the lag. Federal agencies should take stricter measures to put more pressure on the people responsible for ensuring security. Top level accountability can play a major role in the improvement of the cybersecurity infrastructure. Oversights can be avoided and effective strategies can be expected when people responsible are held accountable.

 

5.    Improved Authentication Policies

Phishing attacks are still the most common types of cyber attacks on federal networks. These attacks result from weak authentication and access policies. The federal government needs to move towards modern authentication options such as biometric solutions to prevent unauthorized access of data. Biometric solutions are more effective than the multifactor solutions implemented in most agencies.

 

Conclusion

Over the past years, the government has sanctioned numerous security standards on various industries including healthcare and finance. Federal agencies hold equally important data and they should take measurable steps to ensure better cybersecurity. Standardization, consolidation, communication, authorization, and accountability are five of the key areas that need special attention and strategic action.

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