In the not so distant past, the Office of Personnel management made the startling announcement that they had suffered not one but two breaches, both of which compromised the data and the security clearance of in excess of 20 million people.
That included federal employees, federal contractors and all their family and friends.
Since then, there has been a significant increase in cybersecurity within governmental departments in a bid to avoid another embarrassment in the future.
The upshot of the breaches was that all governmental agencies were tasked with evaluating all of their security policies and identifying problems, coming up with immediate ways to fix them.
This resulted in some positivity, including improvements to authentication practices within the agencies, both for privileged and unprivileged users.
However, while positive steps have been taken to improve security practices, what has come out is the need for all government agencies to take a step back and focus their attention on fundamental practices.
Any security breach within a government agency has the potential to be disastrous but, rather than waiting for that breach to happen, all agencies should be focusing on the following security practices:
One of the biggest security issues within government agencies is authentication simply because passwords can be cracked very easily and single factor authentication simply isn’t enough to keep intruders out.
The only way forward is with multi-factor authentication, the use of a password or pin number together with physical access to a card to access the building or a mobile device to authenticate your identity.
Biometric security is also fast becoming the authentication process of choice for many agencies
One of the biggest factors in security incidents is the failure by IT departments to patch vulnerabilities found within their systems.
On many occasions, software and systems vendors will release a patch for a vulnerability so that all customers can install it and restore their protection but, more often than not, government agencies are behind everyone else when it comes to implementing these patches, thus leaving their systems wide open to threat.
As well as that, there should also be a system in place to ensure that the software and applications in use are kept up to date at all times
Another basic step that government agencies can take is to ensure that the right cybersecurity tools are in use and are kept updated and secured at all times.
Patches and updates must be installed frequently to ensure that the application remains closed to external interference.
Security breaches are incredibly blindsiding and, when they do occur, the attempts to verify information by the target organization tend to fail because there is no visibility into data sources, applications and networks.
Government agencies can usually see exactly what goes in their own departments but most are not able to see what is going on across the enterprise and cannot deal effectively with threats.
The right technology needs to be in place to allow agencies to communicate with each other when sharing information about potential threats.
While the threat landscape is continuing to evolve, government agencies will continue to be targets.
For this reason, all agencies, whether they are local, state or federal, must have plans in place to regularly evaluate their security practices and be continually looking for new ways to strengthen them.