When tensions escalate between nation states, the cyber domain is increasingly the first line of defense. This reality means the United States must ask hard questions about the effectiveness of its current cyber defenses as the frequency and scope of attacks is expected to intensify.
According to John DeSimone, Vice President of Cybersecurity and Special Missions at Raytheon, the evolution in the digital realm demands increasing resiliency of government systems. “It’s not just that there are more threats coming from more countries,” DeSimone explained. “It’s that the impact and consequences of a cyber attack grows more serious as more devices are connected, as there are more attack surfaces, and as the government’s digital presence grows more complex.”
Distributed computing environments, the growth of cloud computing, and the introduction of 5G are allowing the federal government to be more mission-ready and responsive to citizen need. However, this digital transformation also increases the amount of data that drive critical missions, expanding the number of potential targets in a cyber attack, making government systems more challenging to defend. “5G, distributed computing, and the cloud are all vital to meeting the mission and serving citizens, but they make an already challenging task more so by adding complexity,” shared DeSimone.
DeSimone recommends that agencies not only consider the cyber defenses they can purchase, but other facets of a robust cyber defense as well. “Today, building an effective cyber defense can’t be achieved by just buying the best technology available and hoping that your IT team has installed it correctly,” said DeSimone. “Agencies need to look for partners both within the government and with private sector partners too. The ability to coordinate, collaborate, and communicate across agencies, as well as within, to quickly build the most comprehensive picture of the threat environment is the key to an effective cyber defense.”
Agility is a quality that DeSimone thinks shouldn’t be undervalued in today’s highly fluid and volatile threat environment. “We need to be able to match the speed of innovation that our enemies are able to employ,” he shared. “We’re beginning to see significant changes in how cyber tools can be procured with the focus shifting to outcomes-based procurement, which caters to the need for agility while aligning the solution with a mission-focused outcome.”
While this year will likely bring an increasing number of cyber attacks against the U.S., DeSimone is confident that the federal government is taking the right steps to counter these threats. “With a focus on agility and a clear understanding that collaboration is vital to success, federal agencies are on the right path to building effective cyber defenses,” he concluded.