The Federal Government is facing unprecedented challenges when it comes to cybersecurity. Recent events have shown that even the most secure systems are vulnerable to attacks by sophisticated and determined adversaries. While the threats to the government’s cybersecurity are increasing in number, complexity, and sophistication, there are steps that can be done to better secure the nation’s data. To do so, the government’s cybersecurity infrastructure needs to be modernized and strengthened to meet these threats and government agencies must work together and share information to better protect against cyberthreats. This includes implementing training and awareness programs to educate employees about the importance of cybersecurity and how to protect sensitive data. Finally, the government must develop and implement effective incident response and recovery plans to minimize the impact of cyberattacks when they occur.
Why is information security important to governments?
Considering the increasing evolution of technology in recent years, information security has become even more critical than it was previously. Governments handle information such as national security secrets, confidential political matters, and personal information of their citizens. If this information were to fall into the hands of unauthorized individuals or groups, it could have catastrophic consequences, including national security threats, election tampering, and even potential harm to individual citizens. The protection of this information requires a strong and robust security system, including specialized personnel, software, hardware, and policies that ensure unauthorized individuals are not given access to sensitive information. Cyberterrorism and hacking are emerging threats that pose a tremendous challenge to governments in maintaining the confidentiality and privacy of their data.
Latest Cyber Attacks on US Government
In recent years, the US government has faced a plethora of cyber attacks, ranging from sophisticated espionage campaigns to ransomware attacks. One of the most notable incidents took place in December 2020, when a highly-sophisticated state-sponsored group backed by the Russian government, infamously known as Cozy Bear or APT29, infiltrated multiple federal agencies and private companies through a supply-chain attack on SolarWinds Orion software. The attackers were able to access sensitive data on US nuclear weapons stockpile and scores of other classified information.
Another significant cyber attack on the US government was the WannaCry ransomware attack, which affected computers worldwide in May 2017. The ransomware impacted more than 200,000 computers in over 150 countries, including the UK National Health Service (NHS) and FedEx Corporation.
In addition to these high-profile attacks, the US government has faced numerous attempts by various actors to steal data or disrupt operations through phishing emails, advanced persistent threats, and DDoS attacks.
Cybersecurity challenges faced by federal governments
Federal governments around the world face a multitude of cybersecurity challenges that threaten their information security, national security, and the privacy of their citizens.
Evolving nature of cyber threats
Cyber threats are rapidly becoming more sophisticated and insidious. Malware attacks, phishing scams, and ransomware attacks are just a few examples of the cyber threats that federal governments must constantly contend with.
Volume of data
Federal agencies collect vast amounts of sensitive data on everything from national security to personal financial information, making them a prime target for cybercriminals who are constantly searching for vulnerabilities.
The widespread use of mobile devices adds to the complexity of cybersecurity for federal governments. Mobile devices are particularly susceptible to cyber threats because they are often used outside of the controlled environment of government offices and networks.
Federal governments struggle with a shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals. This shortage can make it difficult for governments to keep up with the pace of technological innovation and stay ahead of cyber threats.
Federal Cybersecurity Regulations & Standards
The US Federal Cybersecurity Regulations & Standards are a set of guidelines, protocols, and laws that outline the standards for ensuring the safety and security of digital information belonging to the federal government and its agencies. These regulations and standards are enforced by various government agencies such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and they aim to protect against cyber threats that could jeopardize the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive data.
The recently released Binding Operational Directive 23-01 emphasizes that to effectively manage cybersecurity risks, organizations need continuous and comprehensive asset visibility. The directive applies to the Federal Civilian Executive Branch (FCEB) enterprise and requires accurate accounting of assets on federal networks. BOD 23-01 outlines new requirements for cloud assets and operational technology to reduce cyber risk. In adherence to the directive, Federal civilian agencies must report vulnerability data to CISA at timed intervals using automated tools.
Risk Management Framework (RMF)
The Risk Management Framework (RMF) is a comprehensive framework that is employed to manage and mitigate cybersecurity risks. RMF has become an increasingly crucial and standardized process for securing information technology systems and networks across federal government agencies. This framework is a comprehensive guide for IT professionals to assess, test, and mitigate potential security risks, ensuring that sensitive information remains protected and secure.
The RMF consists of six steps: categorization, selection, implementation, assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring. Each step is crucial to the overall success of the framework and must be executed with care to ensure security objectives are met. This proactive approach to risk management is essential for federal government agencies to ensure compliance with various cybersecurity policies, such as frameworks like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework and the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA).
OWASP Mobile Application Security Verification Standard (MASVS)
The OWASP Mobile Application Security Verification Standard (MASVS) is also recognized as an industry standard for mobile app security in the government. This standard provides a comprehensive framework that enables mobile software architects and developers to develop secure mobile applications and security testers to ensure the completeness and consistency of test results. Mobile apps are increasingly being used within governments, offering a wide range of services to citizens and employees. It is, therefore, crucial that mobile app developers in the government adhere to the MASVS guidelines and implement robust security measures to protect sensitive data from cyber threats. By following the guidelines, mobile app developers can create secure and reliable mobile apps within the government and ensure confidential data remains safe from cyber attacks.
Quokka’s data security solutions for the government
Quokka is positioned to help the federal, executive branch, departments, and agencies with our Q-MAST solution. Q-MAST can provide federal agencies with comprehensive visibility of all vulnerabilities and their severity levels with fewer false negatives than comparable solutions. Quokka security solutions ensure federal data is protected while personnel are carrying out critical work.
CISA MAV or Mobile App Vetting (powered by Quokka), can perform the needed vulnerability identification in mobile assets automatically, helping Federal Civilian Executive Branch (FCEB) agencies meet the mobile specific requirements in BOD 23-01. Our comprehensive reporting and analysis engine pinpoints potential risks down to the exact line of code with an application, giving developers actionable steps to address and patch their code before it can be used against them.
Governments across the globe face increasing challenges of cybersecurity to protect citizens and networks. For this reason, governmental departments like the US-based Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have enacted measures to ensure information security is adequately protected. CISA requirements include a Risk Management Framework consisting of planning, protection, response, detection, and recovery strategies. Taking these precautions allows governments to be better prepared in the event of an attack while providing a more secure environment for their citizens. As such, it is incredibly important for government institutions to understand their security needs and take proactive steps to secure their data. Quokka offers robust data privacy solutions.