As agencies across the federal government modernize their networks to include and accommodate the newest technologies such as cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT), federal IT professionals are faced with modernizing security tactics to keep up with leading-edge threats that accompany leading-edge technologies.
This is no easy task, as modernization has brought complexity—and complexity exacerbates the security challenge. So, what’s the solution?
It’s important to point out that there is no proverbial silver bullet, no single thing that will protect an agency’s network. The reality is that the best defense is implementing a range of tactics that will work in concert to provide the most powerful security solution.
There are absolutely tactics that should be higher priority than others—tactics that federal IT pros can take today to help protect next-generation networks against attack.
Let’s take a closer look.
Something nearly all of us take for granted is access. With increased accessibility to a broad range of files and devices within our networks, far too many individuals have too much access to too many things. The federal IT pro can help dramatically improve the agency’s security posture by reining in access.
There can be any number of reasons that federal IT pros set overly lenient permissions—from a lack of configuration skills to a limited amount of time. The latter is often the more likely culprit as access control applies to so many aspects of the environment. From devices, to file folders, to databases; it becomes difficult to manage setting access rights and is a highly time-consuming process.
Luckily, there are an increasing number of tools available to help automate the process. Some of these tools can go so far as to automatically define permission parameters, create groups and ranges based on these parameters, and automatically apply the correct permissions to any number of devices, files, applications, etc.
Once permissions have been set successfully, be sure to implement multifactor authentication to ensure access controls are as effective as possible.
As discussed above, next generation networks are complex—with different segments that, potentially, reside in different locations and different types of networks (on-premises data center, cloud, hybrid cloud, etc.). The best protection against a complex network is multi-faceted security. Specifically, to ensure the strongest defense, invest in both cloud-based security and on-premises security.
For top-notch cloud-based security, consider the security offerings of the cloud provider with as much importance as other benefits. Too many decision-makers overlook security in favor of more bells and whistles. Ultimately, security will be far more important.
Along similar lines of implementing diverse, multi-faceted security, consider network segmentation if it’s not already in place. The reason? If an attack happens, the federal IT pro should be able to shut down a portion of the network—to contain the attack—while the rest of the network remains unaffected.
Once the federal IT pro has put everything in place, the final phase—testing—will quickly become the most important aspect of security.
Testing covers many things, and that’s the point. Testing should include technology testing (penetration testing, for example), process testing (is multi-factor authentication working?), and people testing (testing the weakest link).
People testing may well be the most important part of this phase. Why? Because increasingly, security threats caused by human error are becoming one of the federal government’s greatest threats. In fact, according to a recent Cybersecurity Survey, careless and malicious insiders topped the list of security threats for federal agencies. Specifically, 56 percent of survey respondents said the greatest source of security threats to federal agencies is careless and/or untrained agency insiders.
As I mentioned earlier, there is no proverbial silver bullet to protecting next-generation federal networks. Yet, there are tactics federal IT pros can employ to provide a more secure environment, from enhancing access control to implementing a broader array of security defenses to instituting a testing policy.
While each of these is important individually, putting them together will go a long way toward strengthening any agency’s security infrastructure.