Two keys to establishing a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy

Federal agencies and our nation’s critical infrastructure – such as energy, transportation systems, communications and financial services — are dependent ...

Federal agencies and our nation’s critical infrastructure – such as energy, transportation systems, communications and financial services — are dependent on technology systems to carry out fundamental operations and to process, maintain and report vital information.

Federal agencies are attractive targets for bad actors, as they often lack a resilient IT infrastructure, operate with tight budgets and stretched IT teams, and struggle to secure outdated infrastructure with limited resources. Modern agencies run on data, making a meaningful data protection strategy essential.

Many agencies are taking steps to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of their systems and effectively respond to cyberattacks – the government has budgeted $10.89 billion on cybersecurity spending for 2023. Given that the average cost of cyberattacks has grown to an estimated $3.6 million per incident, investing in a preemptive security strategy doesn’t seem as costly.

The Government Accountability Office recently released recommendations for cybersecurity strategy and performing oversight that agencies can follow on the road to protect private and sensitive data entrusted to them. Agencies can execute a more comprehensive federal strategy for national cybersecurity by addressing cybersecurity workforce management challenges and ensuring cybersecurity is top of mind when exploring the use of emerging technologies.

Arming the cybersecurity workforce

With the recent National Cybersecurity Strategy, the federal government is focusing more than ever on realigning incentives and rebalancing the responsibility to prioritize cybersecurity. As government IT teams focus on improving cyber protection, they need additional IT talent. Using a strategic talent management approach, agencies can focus on attracting, developing and retaining a diverse, inclusive and highly productive cyber workforce. And with the recent layoffs across the technology industry in the private sector, there is an opportunity for government agencies to level up their cyber workforce.

Agency IT leaders can leverage data to strengthen cyber learning, knowledge sharing and growth opportunities that increase the skills and competencies of their workforce. These efforts aim to best position agency staff to address the cybersecurity issues they face.

While agencies look to implement stronger protection solutions, it’s important to also prioritize continuing education and professional development for IT teams. As government IT teams look to fill skills gaps, technology solutions can help. Federal education and workforce training programs must work together to help build a knowledgeable and skilled cyber workforce while adjusting to the evolving economy, work environments and technology needs.

The most effective strategies will factor in employee training and IT hygiene because employees are often the weakest link in a cyberattack. Leadership teams should be trained to respond as a cyberattack unfolds, while having a comprehensive patch-management program to prevent and minimize the effects of a breach.

Embracing emerging technologies

Agencies are looking for ways to invest in the latest solutions, while maintaining relatively low costs, without compromising data security. Agencies need simple, cost-effective solutions without disruption or downtime, and containers allow institutions to create and deploy applications faster and more securely, bringing a heightened drive for data management for enterprise-level assurance.

As technologies continue to evolve, agencies must ensure that they implement the most advanced IT systems – such as those that deploy integrated hybrid, and multi-cloud architectures, and upgraded legacy applications, including container-based applications – as they provide agencies with a complete data storage infrastructure solution capable of delivering premier citizen services.

Container applications give IT development teams the tools to modernize their applications, as they can gain speed, agility and scale while offering easy backup and restore and enhanced disaster recovery that protects the entire application, including data, application configuration and container-based objects.

Agencies must stay ahead of and implement the most effective data services platforms to provide persistent storage, data protection and disaster recovery.

Preparing for the future

Government agencies are under immense pressure to deliver on their missions regardless of today’s increasingly challenging environment – including the ever-present threat of a cyberattack. Agencies are experiencing more strain on IT systems than ever, and unexpected events often require new storage to support mission-critical functions.

As agencies utilize a lean staff and upgrade security services, they can implement solutions that require less management and maintenance that still minimize disruption or downtime. In today’s cybersecurity landscape, an attack is inevitable. Even those who take the most stringent measures to protect against one are vulnerable. However, it’s possible to create a comprehensive strategy that helps agencies recover more quickly and efficiently following an attack.

In addition, a focus on sustainability initiatives can set agencies up for success. Architectural efficiency lowers costs, enables agencies to meet their most demanding requirements, and helps build sustainable storage solutions. Alignment to green initiatives including power, energy and other sustainability goals enables IT to advocate for more sustainable platform choices.

Agency missions never stop — and they need reliable, efficient, sustainable and agile solutions that can keep pace. IT leaders should focus on executing a comprehensive strategy for implementing modern solutions that will continue to serve citizens’ changing needs.

Mike Wiseman is vice president for public sector at Pure Storage.

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