In this second-of-a-four part series examining the escalating threat from nation state cybercriminals, we examine how migration to the Cloud effectively addresses each of the key factors currently threatening the ability of state and local governments to maintain a sufficiently impregnable cybersecurity infrastructure.
In the first part of this series, The Clear and Present Danger of Organized Cyber Syndicates, we confirmed the increased frequency and severity of cyberattacks, as well as the growing sophistication and capabilities of the cybercriminals themselves, with credible evidence confirming the escalating threat of “nation state cybercriminals”. Of equal concern, we learned that state and local government agencies comprise a particularly inviting target for cybercriminals, given the sheer scope of citizen data being protected and the contributing factors that are currently impeding agencies from keeping pace in this ever-escalating arms race.
Let’s recap each of those factors now, and more importantly, discuss the concrete ways a prudently planned Cloud migration can put your agency on a firm foundation for defending taxpayer data:
Lack of dedicated budget resources for cybersecurity limits both the human and technical resources required for government agencies to properly defend both systems and data against deep pocket cyber syndicates.
One of the core advantages driving migration to the Cloud for many government agencies is the immediate and inherent economies of scale that Cloud adoption creates. Instead of one, you are now one of many; leveraging resources on a global scale that would be simply unattainable if attacking the problem with the more finite resources of a single agency or organization. This depth of resources includes the following:
With Cloud adoption, formerly budget strapped agencies can now access an enterprise scale security infrastructure, maintained at the highest standards to administer global threat monitoring and response. Better still, this newly robust infrastructure can be budgeted with the fixed cost certainty of a single, sustainable line item.
Given the rapid escalation of the threat, there is a substantial shortage of qualified personnel available to lead the cybersecurity defense. Competition for experienced talent is particularly intense amongst the financial sector, private sector tech, and national security organizations, relegating state and local government agencies far behind the pack in the race to recruit qualified cybersecurity workers.
By embracing the Cloud rather than competing with it for talent, state and local agencies turn a daunting recruitment disadvantage into an immediate technical skills advantage—gaining both the breadth of expertise and depth of experience required to combat increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals. Instead of striving to secure often disparate internal legacy systems whilst managing the challenges of insufficient skills, staff and/or resources, Cloud adoption creates a best of both worlds scenario: a controlled environment data infrastructure designed with intrinsic security measures in mind, with security maintained by multi-disciplinary teams fluent in system architecture and certified in all aspects of threat detection and response.
The increased sophistication of cyberattacks consistently stands out as the most worrisome factor for state & local governments looking to effectively marshal their defenses against an arsenal of threats that include ransomware, hacktivism, phishing, DDOS attacks, and more—all disguised within an ever-evolving array of delivery models and concealment tactics.
In addition to the inherent economies of scale that a qualified Cloud vendor can bring to bear to combat cybersecurity threats, the distributed nature of the Cloud model itself affords significant advantages for maintaining an advantageous defense against the full array of potential cyberattacks. From their own global ecosystems, established Cloud providers can access legitimate ‘big data’ on new and emerging threat vectors, utilizing machine learning and predictive algorithms to quantify system impacts and automate system upgrades with no direct customer involvement required.
In addition to their own big data, established Cloud providers can also leverage the services and intel of reputable security firms with regional, technology, or tactical specializations to augment their existing security infrastructure. Again, economies of scale derived from the Cloud help to facilitate a dedicated security resource that would be otherwise unattainable within most state and local agency cybersecurity budgets.
61% of states do not have a program for managing privacy compliance and 54% do not have a formal process in place to deal with information privacy complaints. (Source)
With Cloud environments expressly designed to encrypt, store, retrieve and protect data to the exacting compliance requirements of the most demanding regulatory legislation, Cloud adoption eliminates a potentially massive headache for state and local government administrators juggling these responsibilities in addition to core operational focuses. Robust and redundant reporting schemas ensure the secure archival of citizen data, while the standard provision of a Responsibilities Matrix clearly articulates the information security and access structure for future reference and information audits.
Growing citizen demands for increased data transparency, 24/7 service delivery, and multichannel service accessibility creates a cyberthreat Catch 22—the more that data is made accessible to citizens; the more potentially vulnerable this data is to prospective cybercriminals.
Government agencies overly reliant on older legacy systems invite the increased potential for cyberattacks, with older technologies often lacking both the platform sophistication and ongoing threat assessment support required to stay one step ahead of state sponsored cyber syndicates.
One of the greatest challenges for state & local governments is the tug-of-war between efforts to modernize infrastructure and embrace emerging technologies, whilst still maintaining robust and impregnable security. Failure to do so frustrates both citizens desirous of convenient service experiences and government leaders promising innovation and transparency. It is in this area that the Cloud particularly excels with its ability to centralize security around a Zero Trust based paradigm rather than a conventional castle-and-moat approach that struggles to accommodate different devices and access variables.
By integrating identity management and data encryption across the entire service access workflow, government agencies can offer citizens the now expected convenience of a single login and account profile to transact across all government services. Of equal importance for operational staff, the data centralization fostered in this approach creates a more controlled and predictable environment from which information security can be best optimized to detect and defeat emerging cybersecurity threats.
The sheer frequency of threat responses demanded by the current reality of daily cyberattacks puts government network security teams on the back foot, with current threat monitoring dominating time and resources. This leaves scant resources for the more proactive work of data loss prevention, regulatory compliance, risk management, and other equally crucial security duties.
While outsourcing has proven effective in mitigating many of the factors articulated above, more than half of US states have yet to outsource crucial cybersecurity functions.
From a cybersecurity perspective, the economies of scale derived from cloud adoption are numerous and compelling—affording state and local governments immediate access to more secure and modern technology, supported by highly qualified and compliance certified specialists. Rather than agency legacy systems that are often ‘tied together’ over time, the controlled, data-encrypted environments of reputable Cloud providers are intrinsically designed to support the needs for enhanced information security, data privacy, and emerging threat detection and mitigation.
In tandem with a predictable costs model that largely removes state & local agencies from direct participation in the cybersecurity arms race and instead places this onus on their preferred Cloud vendor, the question for many agencies is no longer how, but when can they best facilitate Cloud adoption to modernize their service offerings AND bulwark their cybersecurity infrastructure?
In the next part of this series, we’ll examine how an agency specific SaaS implementation can help to make a more impactful organization-wide business case for cloud adoption, empowering state & local governments to excel with a mutually compatible vision that delivers technical innovation alongside enhanced cybersecurity.
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