Government cybersecurity incidents on the rise

Apr 07, 2016

Digital Security.jpgThe state of government security is drastically shifting to have a larger focus on cyberspace than ever before. Federal organizations deflect threats from malware, ransomware and viruses on a daily basis, but the risks are becoming more dire as time passes. Malicious parties are advancing their tactics as quickly as security firms are upgrading their solutions to fend off threats. This volatile environment is leading to numerous breaches and more determination to protect sensitive information under federal domain.

U.S. on the forefront of cyber tactics

Among other technology initiatives, the U.S. government has directed attention to cybersecurity as a major focus going forward. The breaches on the Office of Personnel Management and other agencies have stirred federal groups to better protect themselves and to lead by example. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) framework and cyberthreat information sharing laws have been a positive step forward in these efforts, but agencies need to ensure that these practices are being fully supported. 

In an event at the National Press Club, U.S. officials Alejandro Mayorkas and Chris Painter asked global cybersecurity experts touse NIST and legislation as models for their own governments, FedScoop reported. This could help establish accountability, develop chains of communication and raise overall cybersecurity awareness across the world.

While the U.S. is making headway in providing an example to the world for cybersecurity protection, it is also planning to use attacks on the virtual space. During an interview with Financial Times, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter stated the U.S. Cyber Command has been using online attacks to disrupt ISIS since the start of 2016. This effort is the Pentagon cyber force's first wartime assignment, and it could make a difference to hinder the ISIS campaign without sending in more troops. The Cyber Command has used tactics like denial-of-service attacks to jam communications and hinder the ability to pay people. Bringing cyber forces into the game for their own gain could drastically change how war is waged and help deter future threats.

"They now want people to think that there is a there is a box of tricks that we can use if provoked," James Lewis, a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told Financial Times. "Some of us have been making this case for several years. We were able to talk about the potential use of nuclear weapons as part of deterrence, so why can we not talk about cyber that way as well?"

Cyberattacks continue to incline

In today's technological climate, there are a number of risks that could affect business operations, but cyberattacks are among the most damaging. While federal agencies have made significant headway with their protections, the number of incidents continues to rise. A report by the Office of Management and Budget, there were over 77,000 incidents reported by agencies in 2015, a 10 percent increase from the previous year. It's important to note that although there were a large number of attacks that were detected and mitigated, there are also untold numbers for how many cyber incidents were not found or continue to plague government systems. This is a scary prospect, especially for groups that are attempting to lead the way with their digital security methods.

"Despite unprecedented improvements in securing federal information resources during FY 2015, malicious actors continue to gain unauthorized access to and compromise federal networks, information systems and data," the report stated.

The world is affected

The U.S. isn't alone in experiencing cybersecurity threats, and global government figures are taking action to better protect their systems and sensitive information. The Economic Times noted that the risk for a digital attack often escalates before diplomatic meetings in an attempt to target defense and government leaders. This could be seen by the fact that India's former ambassador to Afghanistan was hacked a day prior to a visit from India's prime minister. Although this event was found and reported right away, there are many others that go unsuspected. Worst of all, other countries and leaders may not be well-prepared to handle these situations.

Diplomatic meetings and conferences aren't the only times when government leaders may be targeted by cyberattacks. The Olympics, a meeting and celebration of nations, is also considered a likely objective for hackers. To prepare for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, the government is planning to train 1,000 cybersecurity experts, according to JapanToday. This is a major undertaking that could help protect athletes, dignitaries, leaders and other spectators at the games.

The U.S. federal government has already accomplished a lot from establishing the NIST framework and passing legislation. Other countries have experienced similar pressures from the digital space and are working to amp up their safeguards. With government cybersecurity services, groups can ensure that their systems are being monitored and protected at a time when it's needed most.

Category: Cybersecurity