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3 Cyberthreats Facing Federal and State Governments in 2020


Despite growing awareness around cyberthreats, organizations will continue to face the consequences of inadequate network protection. 

Bad actors do not discriminate. Organizations across all sectors are at risk — corporations, non-profits, and increasingly, federal and state government entities. 

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that security incidents increased by 1,300 percent from 2006 to 2015. This number is growing. 

The GAO has identified three major security issues government entities need to address to protect network security:

·   Establishing a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy

·   Securing federal systems and information

·   Protecting critical cyberinfrastructure 

Government entities face an uphill battle when it comes to addressing these issues. Over the next decade, these three cybersecurity challenges will present significant roadblocks.

1. Understaffing

Recruiting top network security talent is a daunting task across the private sector, but it is even more difficult for public entities. While state and federal government entities have even more exposure than private entities, they have fewer resources to attract and retain talent. 

Today, there are over 1 million cybersecurity positions open across all sectors, a number that has grown steadily over the past several years. 

This trend will not only continue into the next decade; the numbers are about to get worse. A recent analysis conducted by CybersecurityVentures.com revealed that by 2021, 3.5 million cybersecurity positions will go unfulfilled. 

The federal government is scrambling to recruit “best talent” professionals to combat the looming cybersecurity crisis. Recruitment is a difficult undertaking because the tech sector pays considerably more and offers jobs that are more attractive to fresh college graduates.

2. Lack of Proper Tooling

Even when government entities do hire talented cybersecurity employees, they can’t work up to their potential. Outdated and inadequate tools limit them. 

A deficit in cybersecurity tools can limit a security team’s ability to identify and report network vulnerabilities. Outdated analytics tools, or a lack of analytics altogether, limit an entity’s ability to confidently monitor the often sprawling networks associated with large government agencies and departments. 

Like their private sector counterparts, public sector cybersecurity teams need access to smarter, modern technology. Advances in artificial intelligence, in particular, have greatly enhanced the ability of SecOps professionals to maintain their systems properly. 

The lack of proper network monitoring tools extends to the networked machines used in many government offices. Agencies often use machines well past their typical lifespans to save money, but those savings come at the expense of increased network vulnerability. 

Hackers have broken into systems through networked fax machines, printers, video conference systems, security monitoring systems, and even HVAC components. Often, these machines and systems are too outdated to be patched appropriately and utilize operating systems incompatible with the network’s security platform.

3. Frequency of Attacks

Hackers and bad actors never stop. Unfortunately, they have taken advantage of the government’s inability to properly secure their networks. These networks have become a major target for hacking and other cybersecurity threats. 

Data saved on-site is vulnerable, as are the increasing number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices government entities need to do their jobs. Because IoT devices are continually joining and leaving networks, bad actors are always on the lookout for a way to access systems through these devices. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a federal agency working to improve the way the federal government uses innovation, strongly recommends entities create IoT cybersecurity protocols that:

1.   Protect device security — for example, preventing an IoT device from being used to conduct attacks

2.   Protect the security of data, including personally identifiable information 

While it is a challenging prospect, government entities must keep their entire networks secure at all times. Hackers can attack a network in an astonishingly short amount of time.

Looking Ahead

To face mounting cybersecurity challenges in the coming decade, government entities will have to either invest in better technology or pay the cost of hacks and breaches. Entire municipal governments have effectively shut down through strategically-targeted ransomware. The ultimate cost to taxpayers can far exceed what it would have cost to secure these systems adequately. 

Federal and state governments must view these cautionary tales as a precursor to what could happen at a larger, more impactful scale. The nation’s infrastructure relies on inadequately protected networks. 

An advanced AI tool like the MixMode platform can enhance the way governments fight against today’s cybercriminals. MixMode continuously analyzes network traffic to detect anomalies and suspicious activity, filter out false positives, and stop legitimate cyberattacks in their tracks. 

Find out how MixMode can help your organization address the threats of today and tomorrow.

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