What Does it Mean to Be Secure?

The following blog post is an excerpt from a recent GovLoop guide: Your Cybersecurity Crash Course. We solicited the GovLoop community to learn their top cyber challenges and the report, we answer 12 of their most pressing cyber questions.  

Maintaining and protecting valuable assets are two of government’s most important tasks. Your agency may very well hold crucial information about our economy, confidential citizen data or national security intelligence that must remain protected. The stakes for data security are higher than ever before. So how can administrators confidently say their data is secure?

At its surface, this question seems simple. Administrators can point to technical specifications they follow, network assessments and tests, staff security trainings, and more. Yet in reality, the question is so fundamental, it deserves more attention than checking off a simple list of procedures. Our question is humbling in its complexity and indicates that security today is not just a physical state; it is a mind-set that must diffuse across an entire agency.

One of the major challenges you face as a government employee is closing the gap between your perceived and actual security. By fully assessing your security levels and closing that gap, you can stay one step ahead of attackers and protect your agency’s data. Here are five core competencies you need to be secure:

#1: The ability to gain real-time awareness of networks.

Attacks on agencies are occurring more frequently than ever before, and agencies now must be able to analyze threats and attacks in real time. Being secure doesn’t just mean the ability to respond quickly; it’s having the knowledge and insights to spot attacks as they are unfolding. To gain that awareness, agencies must understand what their network looks like, who accesses it and how.

#2: Create ways to continuously conduct vulnerability assessments.

 In today’s security environment, organizations must respond quickly to an attack. Your agency must be able to deploy mitigation techniques and respond rapidly to complex attacks.

#3: Educate and train employees.

Cyber professionals must be able to communicate the importance to employees outside cyber- or IT-focused departments. Be creative with training and educating your employees — an area we explore more later in our report. 

#4: Assess your network. 

How can you protect your network if you don’t know who or what is on it accessing information? The ability to continuously assess your network is imperative. This means conducting data inventories, and most importantly, understanding how information moves across your network.

#5: Automate processes.

Automation is a crucial part of any cyber defense. By automating traditionally manual processes, agencies can improve compliance and reporting strategies. Automation can help agencies react quickly and develop new ways of thinking about cyber issues.

Ultimately, the problem that security professionals face is that some attacks will work. Cybersecurity today is as much a practice of damage control as it is of prevention. These five competencies are by no means exhaustive, but they are fundamental to any cybersecurity strategy.


To learn more about cybersecurity, be sure to check out the report: Your Cybersecurity Crash Course

Photo credit: FLickR Creative Commons

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