Even though cloud technology has become the new normal for the private sector, it has a less than tenuous grasp on government. In 2018, cloud neglect in the public sector prompted the White House to launch its “Cloud Smart” policy, designed to promote the idea that government agencies should begin adopting this useful breed of computing technology.
At the time, relevant agencies didn’t jump quickly on the opportunity due to security concerns such as data storage and the sharing of information. However, the time is now ripe. With cloud computing over a decade old and long proven as a pragmatic solution to many administrative problems, it’s time for lagging governments to bring themselves up to speed.
Despite some public offices embracing a cloud-first approach or cloud-only policy, the majority of the United States government is woefully behind, and still in the dark about the risks and benefits that come with moving network resources to the cloud. Most concerns circle the notion of privacy or security, but these days they’re addressed more easily than they once were.
In the United States, there are more than 90,000 government offices that comprise a patchwork of different approaches for cloud computing and cloud security. In most cases, local and state governments are more open to adopting cloud solutions and services as opposed to the federal government.
These government offices are finally clueing into the tangible benefits that the cloud provides: low costs, ease-of-use and higher productivity. With these advantages within reach, ensuring that preferred cloud solutions are secured has become the top priority for governments. Any and all benefits can be ignored if the implemented cloud services or solutions aren’t totally secure, and this is why analog processes have reigned supreme for so long.
As government offices begin to push their networks onto cloud infrastructure and connect them with remote workers and IoT devices, the number of endpoints that hackers can attack has climbed significantly. As we saw in March 2018, the City of Atlanta was attacked by hackers with ransomware that shut down government services for six days. Likely a victim of the SamSam exploit on Java-based servers, this is an example of how ditching self-managed hardware for a provider’s cloud would likely add a barrier between hackers and government property.
It is also just one of many examples for how governments have become a more popular target. In response to the growing sophistication of attacks, cloud security must now go beyond malware defense, and so government IT teams are forced to look at the big picture. Instead of focusing on specific types of attacks, they need to promote efforts to gain omniscience within the network. In the past, governments tended to only pay attention to the data leaving their network perimeter, but today they need to be just as cognizant of permissioned users and data being accessed by government employees. The rise of the remote workforce has pushed visibility even further into government IT teams’ awareness.
As more governments adopt network security solutions for their work environment, an increasing number of security events and alerts have overwhelmed governments’ security teams, which actually distracts from the idea of better network visibility. IT teams need to have complete knowledge of what is occurring on their network at any given time, across public and private clouds, applications running on the network, and more. Where numerous unqualified alerts create a swarm blocking proper visibility, hackers can use the hubbub to muffle their steps and make a quiet entrance into government agencies’ networks.
To fight visibility and network control concerns, governments should adopt Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems. These systems accumulate the data from different sources and recognize which are outside normal parameters, and also provide an appropriate response. SIEM systems play a huge part in helping IT and security teams to detect and prevent security risks across governments’ infrastructures in an intelligent manner.
For any modern government cloud security strategy, it’s often recommended to implement a range of products that deal individually with a wider range of common network attacks. Until recently, this strategy worked well, but now we are seeing that it creates a bigger problem. Adding a large number of products to IT’s stack causes misconfiguration and exposed deployments of various software solutions. This, together with ensuing hybrid IT complexity, is creating a tangle of security challenges for IT teams.
This challenge has a label; “tool sprawl”. It is the idea of investing in a range of security products that work together, yet make it harder for IT teams to manage and orchestrate them in the network. In order to achieve a more flexible and productive network and cloud security strategy, governments have to move away from the multi-vendor tool sprawl approach and look to adopt a unified platform model. It’s especially true for governments that are looking to ensure the privacy and security of their data against outside threats. This is where SASE comes into play.
By adopting edge data security, government agencies can enhance their security hygiene with the help of quicker, integrated, and more elastic solutions that simultaneously keep government employees connected from afar. This approach has become more relevant with the introduction of Secure Access Service Edge (SASE).
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) was introduced by Gartner in August 2019. SASE is a new cloud-based network security model that combines multiple network technologies delivered as a service, including SWG, CASB, FWaaS and ZTNA with WAN capabilities (i.e., SD-WAN) to support dynamic secure access to organizational assets. The SASE model allows government IT and security teams to easily connect and secure all of their networks and users in an agile, cost-effective and scalable way through the cloud.
By adopting a SASE platform, government offices can enable the delivery of integrated secure network security services that support digital cloud transformation, edge computing, workforce mobility, identity and access management. This new model will help governments get over the hump of doubt that has built up around the cloud. It will allow governments to manage all of their security and network solutions from one platform, fight off new threats and secure employees’ data no matter their location. On the near horizon is a cloud security strategy for the future and one that has no more relevant home than government.