Cyber Security is Vitally Important for Government Organizations
Discover how government data can be exposed and learn what’s being done to combat cyber threats. Government organizations are under constant threat from cyber crime. Unfortunately, they have so far been ill-prepared in their cyber security to meet and prevent these attacks.
According to a recent report, government agencies at the federal, state and local level rank last in cyber security when compared to major private industries. The federal government had more than 77,000 data breaches in 2015, a 10 percent increase from the previous year, according to a White House audit.
Across all levels of government, there were 35 major data breaches between April 2015 and April 2016. Those figures aren’t likely to decline, as a McAfee report warns that government-targeted ransomware is on the rise.
BitSight, a leading cyber security rating company, found that ransomware attacks on government agencies around the world have tripled in the past year. The 2016 report revealed that government had the second lowest security rating compared to five other industries, as well as the highest ransomware attack rate.
So what does this growth in cyber crime mean for U.S. government agencies and how hard have they been hit?
Government Under Cyber Attack
The government has been victim to some of the largest data breaches in recent years, exposing their weaknesses in network security, software patching, social engineering, and malware.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) experienced the biggest government data breach to date when in 2015 21.5 million records were stolen. Hackers used social engineering to obtain credentials of a third-party contractor and then deployed a malware package to access the OPM’s network.
“[The OPM hack] brought into the forefront that smaller-sized, medium-sized agencies that didn’t consider themselves to be such a threat to cyber activity from data thieves have the potential… to become a target and become a victim,” says Ann Barron-DiCamillo, a Homeland Security cyber investigator.
Small or large, all government agencies are targets. Other major government breaches include:
- A hacker published the contact information of over 20,000 FBI and Homeland Security employees after compromising a Justice Department employee’s email in February 2016.
- A NASA drone was hacked, and data on over 2,400 employees as well as aircraft videos were exposed.
- About 700,000 social security numbers were stolen in an IRS data breach in February 2016.
As a result of these incidents, the government is putting a premium on information assurance.
Want to know how to stop a cyber attack? Read our article ‘Top Cyber Security Threats That Hacker’s Love.’
Responding to Cyber Crime
Cyber security threats are nothing new for the federal government. It has taken measures to fight cyber crime, by increasing cyber security spending annually over the past decade. Last December, Congress passed the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, which made it easier for private companies to share cybersecurity information with the government.
However, the administration is calling for more information assurance. President Obama announced a Cybersecurity National Action Plan earlier this year to enhance cyber security awareness and protect privacy.
The plan calls for a $19 billion investment in cyber security in 2017, which is about a 35 percent increase from the 2016 budget. In addition, the plan establishes the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, which will make recommendations to strengthen information assurance over the next decade.
It’s not just the federal government taking action. States are stepping up cyber security as well. New York introduced legislation that requires companies to establish a cyber security program and add a chief information security officer (CSIO).
The new initiatives and spending mean there is greater demand for experienced and qualified cyber security professionals in the public sector, and greater need for cyber security professionals to invest in the right advanced education.
Through this investment, cyber security professionals can leverage their advanced degrees and knowledge to move into C-suite and senior executive positions. To find out how you can set yourself on the CSIO career path, view our free infographic. [link to: How to Become a Chief Information Security Officer infographic]
The Job of Fighting Cyber Threats
There are 209,000 job vacancies in cyber security, according to a Government Technology report, and that number is expected to grow to 1.5 million by 2019.
The federal government is pushing to create a cybersecurity pipeline by targeting all levels of education. It created $125 million in grants to primary and secondary schools and has designated nearly 200 colleges as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. These centers of academic excellence include such institutions as Utica College, Regis University and the University of Delaware.
These universities offer professionals a path into a field with a high job demand both in the public and private sectors. For those who can’t afford to take a break from work or need flexibility in their education environment, an online cyber security degree
All government agencies are in need of cyber security professionals and are looking for candidates adept in cyber incident response, cyber risk analysis, intelligence, network engineering and digital forensics – skills that can be acquired through degree programs.
Cyber security has become a priority for the government. As policy evolves to meet cyber threats, government organizations will need more information-security experts to protect sensitive data.
There are many opportunities to advance in cyber security. Explore our Careers section to find the right path for you.