Omar Rafik, SolarWinds Senior Manager, Federal Sales Engineering
Here’s an interesting article by my colleague Jim Hansen reviewing data from our cybersecurity survey, including details on how agencies are combatting threats.
According to a 2019 Federal Cybersecurity Survey released last year by IT management software company SolarWinds, careless and malicious insiders topped the list of security threats for federal agencies. Yet, despite the increased threats, federal IT security pros believe they’re making progress managing risk.
Why the positive attitude despite the increasing challenge? While threats may be on the rise, strategies to combat these threats—such as government mandates, security tools, and best practices—are seeing vast improvements.
Greater Threat, Greater Solutions
According to the Cybersecurity Survey, 56% of respondents said the greatest source of security threats to federal agencies is careless and/or untrained agency insiders; 36% cited malicious insiders as the greatest source of security threats.
Most respondents cited numerous reasons why these types of threats have improved or remained in control, from policy and process improvements to better cyberhygiene and advancing security tools.
•Policy and process improvements: 58% of respondents cited “improved strategy and processes to apply security best practices” as the primary reason careless insider threats have improved.
•Basic security hygiene: 47% of respondents cited “end-user security awareness training” as the primary reason careless insider threats have improved.
•Advanced security tools: 42% of respondents cited “intrusion detection and prevention tools” as the primary reason careless insider threats have improved.
“NIST Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity” topped the list of the most critical regulations and mandates, with FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) and DISA STIGs (Security Technical Implementation Guides) following close behind, at 60%, 55%, and 52% of respondents, respectively, citing these as the primary contributing factor in managing agency risks.
There’s also no question the tools and technologies to help reduce risk are advancing quickly; this was evidenced by the number of tools federal IT security pros rely on to ensure a stronger security posture within their agencies. The following are the tools cited, and the percentage of respondents saying these are their most important technologies in their proverbial tool chest:
•Intrusion detection and prevention tools 42%
•Endpoint and mobile security 34%
•Web application firewalls 34%
•Fire and disk encryption 34%
•Network traffic encryption 34%
•Web security or web content filtering gateways 33%
•Internal threat detection/intelligence 30%
Training was deemed the most important factor in reducing agency risk, particularly when it comes to reducing risks associated with contractors or temporary workers:
•53% cited “ongoing security training” as the most important factor
•49% cited “training on security policies when onboarding” as the most important factor
•44% cited “educate regular employees on the need to protect sensitive data” as the most important factor
Any federal IT security pro will tell you although things are improving, there’s no one answer or one solution. The most effective way to reduce risk is a combination of tactics, from implementing ever-improving technologies to meeting federal mandates to ensuring all staffers are trained in security best practices.
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