Government facing one of nation’s biggest threats
by Mary Scott Nabers,
CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
The White House this week acknowledged an attempt to infiltrate its computer systems. Last year, Google fought off computer hackers attempting to steal high-tech data. Cybersecurity is one of the country’s greatest threats. And while the danger to public sector critical networks is obvious, it is just as real for private sector firms.
American citizens have no tolerance for cyberattacks. There is universal rage when hackers are successful in any attempt to access vital data or disrupt operations of any type. Yet, there seems to be no consensus on how to fix the problem.
President Obama has announced that he will issue an Executive Order to outline new rules and some regulatory changes that will diminish the liability from cyber threats. This action has resulted because Congress has failed to pass a cybersecurity bill. In spite of the fact that this problem affects all Americans and especially businesses and government, politicians cannot seem to agree on remedies.
October marks the start of the ninth annual National Cybersecurity Month led by The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). By raising the visibility of the nation’s vulnerability, the organization hopes Americans will become more aware of the threats and be more involved in finding ways to protect sensitive data networks.
And, although much of the dialogues on cybersecurity threats revolve around the federal government, state and local governments are just as vulnerable and must be equally as prepared for attacks. A recent study pointed out what most would have assumed – public officials at the state and local levels of government spend significantly less on security measures when compared to the federal government and/or the private sector. In fact, local governments spend only about 2 percent of their budgets on cybersecurity and private sector companies spend upwards of 6 percent on securing their networks. The disparity is because public officials at the state and local levels of government simply do not have the additional funding that would be required to increase security.
Some governmental agencies have initiated policies of “bring your own device” (BYOD). Programs like this enable public sector employees access to work from personal devices. While such programs allow significant cost-saving measures, the down side is that there is increased risk from hackers. The Veterans Administration has announced plans to allow more than 100,000 BYOD devices access to its servers. The announcement has been controversial because many technology and security professionals believe that initiatives such as this compromise the security of critical data.
And, cybersecurity concerns go beyond critical and sensitive data. Public officials must also consider the threat of security on smart grids. With the growing emergence of communication and computing technology related to electric utilities, it is imperative to ensure that the networks cannot be accessed by outsiders. Threats to smart grids can vary from hackers who would alter electric bills to acts of terrorism that pose a direct threat to the nation’s power supply. As smart grid deployment grows, the need to insure safe and secure networks will become even more critical.
The National Association of Counties recently announced a program that will focus on providing county officials as much information as possible about available funding for cybersecurity. That should be an extremely popular program for county officials, but citizens must wonder and ask elected officials what is being done at all other levels of government to increase the network security of this country’s critical networks.