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Cybersecurity in a Connected Government
By Behzad Zamanian, CIO, City of Huntington Beach
As we enter the Internet of things era and people and systems become ever more interconnected, the capacity, extent, and value of information held online has also increased. So have industries and the work to exploit that information to harm systems and safety of data. Connectivity is now essential to creating new opportunities for modernization and growth of government agencies. To be efficient and effective, employees and vendors, citizens, and government constituents need remote and online access to resources and services. This also introduces enormous risks. Government agencies are increasingly a target for hackers and cybercrime. All of us, government employees, contractors, departments, and vendors need to work together to build resilience to cybersecurity threats and to make the most of opportunities that connectivity offers. To grow the organization we must accept disruptive technologies, but the potential of digital revolution depends on the extent to which we can trust the Internet of things.
Periodic cybersecurity assessments will help you identify ways your organization’s security can be compromised. This helps identify risks and develop a cybersecurity strategy. Some of the things to keep in mind when developing a strategy are:
Effective Framework and End to-End Scope: Continuous layered security approach including protection of web service, parameter network, remote access restriction, anti-malware, data encryption, firewall, digital certification, email security, event logging, application security, restrict computer use policies, and other measures.
Vulnerability Assessment and Analytics: Ongoing evaluation, testing, monitoring, and enhancing the network infrastructure. This will include constant penetration testing, monitoring network access, and implement additional security measures to address the organization’s parameter networks.
Incident Response Planning: Redundancy and recoverability includes an upgrade of the backup system, updating of the Disaster Recovery (DR) documentation, and annual test of the DR procedures.
Government agencies must elevate and support cybersecurity as a high priority and recognize that cybersecurity challenges come at high cost and inconvenience to user community
Modernize IT and Allocate Dedicated Cybersecurity Resources: Commitment to invest in IT and cybersecurity and allocation of a percentage of total IT budget to cybersecurity.
Employee Education: One of the most under-discussed but vital elements to comprehensive network security is employee education through training and reinforcement of best practices use of technology resources.
As a government agency, the technology infrastructure and network has to be built on a solid foundation and must abide by critical public safety and regulatory compliance requirements such as Department of Justice (DOJ), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPA), and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliance (PCI-DSS), and so on.
In doing so, a layered security methodology is needed to properly secure government critical infrastructure and data. This methodology is also known as Layered Defense which describes the practice of combining multiple mitigating security controls to protect resources and data. The purpose of including multiple layers in network security is to make sure that each single defense component has a backup in the case of a flaw or missing coverage. The individual strengths of each layer also cover any gaps that other defenses may lack. Examples of layered security components are network parameter defense, physical network hardening, port security, network segmentation, server and desktop antivirus/antimalware, web and email protection, application security and authentication, storage encryption, access restriction, remote access management, multi-factor authentication, physical security and access control, monitoring and analytics, enterprise event logging, cybersecurity policy and guideline, and other security measures.
Strong cybersecurity should be a fundamental element of government agencies’ growth in a connected digital world and security remains to be a major challenge and top priority for government agencies in the next few years. There is no such thing as a silver bullet, and it takes many technologies and processes to provide comprehensive risk and security management. It is also vital to public safety and regulatory compliance standards and requirements. It requires partnership and collaboration between agencies, departments, vendors, and the community. It is imperative to note that securing an organization is not that cut and dry, but it is a sliding scale that requires finding the right balance between the two. Tools that make your life more convenient also tend to make it less secure. Technologies that make you more secure are also generally inconvenient; therefore government employees have to recognize and comply with established restrict security standards. To grow into smart government with digital services, agencies will have to perform a security assessment, develop a cybersecurity strategy, tackle shortage of cybersecurity resources and measures, and budget accordingly. Ultimately, to deal with all of these challenges, government agencies must elevate and support cybersecurity as a high priority and recognize that cybersecurity challenges come at high cost and inconvenience to user community.
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