By Brandon Shopp, Vice President, Product Strategy and Security, SolarWinds
As you’re reading this, a data breach is most likely occurring somewhere in the United States.
On average, there were 20 data breaches reported per day in the first half of 2019.
That’s a sobering statistic, especially given the amount of focus organizations have placed on strengthening their cyberdefenses.
(A federal grand jury has indicted a Chinese national on charges stemming from a massive data breach of Indianapolis-based health insurer Anthem Inc. Courtesy of RTV6 The Indy Channel and YouTube. Posted on May 9, 2019.)
The President’s Budget for FY 2019 allocated US$15B for cybersecurity funding, of which the Department of Defense by itself contributed US$8.5B.
This funding is in direct response to a growing crisis made evident in a 2018 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) risk report.
The OMB called the current situation regarding federal cybersecurity measures “untenable” and cited that 74% of the agencies participating in the report were either “at risk” or at “high risk.”
Will the increased attention and focus on cybersecurity matters make a positive impact?
Perhaps. But only if federal agencies recalibrate their efforts to focus on the two most important factors in the battle against malicious attackers:
the People they use to manage the fight, and
the Tools those people use as their weaponry
People on the Front Lines
One of the reasons why hackers have been so successful over the years is their ability to adapt.
They’ll find a vulnerability, exploit it, and move onto something new once the vulnerability has been patched.
It’s important for government agencies to invest in the right people and training.
After all, it’s not machines that adapt and adjust those policies to outflank or respond to the varying tactics used by attackers.
It’s well-trained, knowledgeable, and dedicated personnel.
In the past few months we’ve seen new and highly dangerous threats emerge, like BlueKeep and Dtrack.
These threats come in many different forms—ransomware, malware, and others—and can be hard to respond to without the proper education.
Agencies should encourage consistent training and knowledge sharing about these and other impending threats and emphasize the need for consistent patching and monitoring.
Fortunately, the federal government is getting better at providing exceptional cybersecurity training for its employees.
A case in point is the Federal Cyber Reskilling Academy (FCRA), which offers hands-on training in cybersecurity.
Federal agencies must take advantage of programs like the FCRA if they are to recruit the top-tier talent needed to combat cyberterrorism.
Yet a predisposition toward good cybersecurity shouldn’t begin and end with the federal IT team.
Everyone in the organization, from the chief information security officer on down, should be invested.
IT managers can do their part by setting forth user policies and sharing them with everyone or making users aware of the latest phishing, “whaling” (hackers targeting high-level employees), or “baiting” (bribing employees in return for information or credentials) scams.
This type of knowledge sharing can go a long way toward addressing the insider threat problem, which a recent SolarWinds Federal Cybersecurity Survey found to be a leading cause of security threats.
Technology as a Defense Mechanism
An agency’s employees are the army leading the charge against cyberthreats, and like any army, they need weapons.
In this case, that means tools for IT administrators to automatically mitigate and remediate attacks, track down threats to their points of origin, and understand who’s behind the incidents.
Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Indeed, the OMB’s risk report said 38% of federal cyber incidents in 2018 didn’t have a known attack vector.
This is partially due to the siloed nature of government agencies.
The DoD, for example, includes many different branches working independently of one another. It can be challenging to monitor those separate networks, even though an attack on one could directly impact another.
The increasing complexity of federal IT networks, including the move toward hybrid IT environments, may also be a contributing factor.
The more complex those networks become, and the more applications are moved into the cloud, the harder it can be to monitor and manage network activity effectively, especially when some data resides in the cloud.
(Network traffic visibility is more important than ever. SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer expands that visibility to include IPv6 flow records, Palo Alto devices, and provides deployment flexibility and support for use of Azure® SQL as a data repository. Courtesy of SolarWinds and YouTube. Posted on Jun 6, 2019.)
Agencies have been performing traditional network monitoring for years, but what they have been doing may not be sufficient in this type of environment.
IT administrators need complete visibility into their networks, regardless of the form they may take—distributed, on-premises, cloud, or hybrid.
They need to be able to receive immediate alerts whenever and wherever an anomaly occurs.
If an attack takes place, administrators must be able to trace the incident back to its origins via forensic analysis that can be used across their entire network environment, even in the cloud.
This is the type of sophistication needed to protect against unrelenting enemies that will continue to poke and prod in an attempt to gain access.
Consider it “network monitoring on steroids.”
When combined with a highly skilled and knowledge employee base, it can serve as an effective defensive front against increasingly determined and sophisticated adversaries.
About the Author
Brandon Shopp is vice president, product strategy and security at SolarWinds.
Brandon is a High-bandwidth Product Management professional, experienced with a wide variety of software products, business models, M&A, and go-to-market strategies.
His specialties include product management, enterprise management software, networking, systems management, mergers and acquisitions, M&A, application management, networking monitoring, systems monitoring.
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(SolarWinds Access Rights Manager (ARM) helps IT and Security Admins meet compliance requirements with centralized provisioning, deprovisioning, management, and audit of user permissions and access to systems, data, and files while protecting their organizations from internal security breaches. Courtesy of SolarWinds and YouTube.)
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SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager
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*SolarWinds has been recognized in the 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program.
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The traditional security marketplace has long been covered by a host of publications putting forward the old school basics to what is Today – a fast changing security landscape.
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