How to Unlock the Hidden Value of Your Cyber Defenses

Inside its walls, every agency hordes a treasure chest of extremely valuable information and data. That information ranges from Social Security numbers to advanced weapons systems data, and you can bet that hackers are out to get it all.

Cyberthreats are coming fast and furious at agencies. There are phishing, insider threats and malware, just to name a few. What all have in common is that each type of attack is as unrelenting as waves in the ocean. Attacks pummel agencies, sending thousands of attempts a day, just hoping one sinks the ship.

Fortunately, agencies have advanced systems of protection. They have threat detection, incident response, and security information and event management, or SIEM. Think of these like the emergency alarm, backup generator and pumps that keep the ship upright.

But there is such a thing as having too many cybersecurity tools. When all of these technologies fail to work together, they make for an uncoordinated, disjointed defense. Here’s how.

  • For every isolated technology, someone needs to operate it. That’s another set of eyes on a system that might not be the top priority.
  • Then, tools actually get in one another’s way. What if a monitoring tool wrongly flags a response system as a malicious actor? For every solution, there shouldn’t be a new problem.
  • Agencies also face a data overload. If they can’t get an accurate picture of what their cybersecurity posture is, they won’t know their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Last but not least, there’s cost.

As a result of the infighting between tools, agencies miss out on insights and an effective, streamlined defense. Employees also never settle into a secure, stable environment – always undergoing new training or learning a new system. Even compliance is a challenge because of data visibility issues.

The Benefits of Integration

Next time you catch yourself wanting another security tool, stop and ask: “How can I make my existing tools better?” The answer is integration.

What we mean by integration is plugging different technologies into a control center that aggregates information and generates threat intelligence. From that control center, agencies coordinate the technical elements of their response, considering external and internal sources. Employees no longer have to run to the data center to troubleshoot.

If attacks are coming in at a high volume, agencies need to brace themselves. With integration, they can identify gaps and try to plug the holes in time, whether by building access controls or unclogging internal systems.

Integration comes with three main benefits for agencies.

First is enrichment. Security alerts are more valuable when paired with context and external intelligence. For example, what if two dozen employees have reported a phishing attack, and now one account from their department is acting abnormally – logging on late at night and trying to access classified files. Without integration, agencies might not recognize the imposter, but with enriched data and information, they can easily put two and two together.

Next is correlation. During COVID-19, attacks have poured in on agencies, as cybercriminals are hoping to take advantage of organizations just treading water. Agencies should know where they’re being targeted and see overall trends in cybersecurity, in case cyberattackers’ are trying to overwhelm or go after a certain system. Then, they can add computing power and more gates so that systems don’t crash.

Last is monitoring. As we mentioned earlier, attention is spread thin when security teams have their eyes on hundreds of different applications. But an integrated security suite is one source for tracking information, every single time. Even better, security teams get real-time alerts on trends, issues and warnings.

With integration, agencies maximize existing products, carefully cultivating a cybersecurity strategy and configuration that works for them. In the process, they might even save money by cutting an obsolete monitoring or automated response solution.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop Academy’s recent course, “How to Unlock the Hidden Value of Your Cyber Defenses,” created in partnership with Recorded Future and Carahsoft. Access the full course here.

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