Business & Technology
This is a summary of an article that first appeared on the GCN website on Jan 14, 2019.
As government agencies expand their network architectures to support digital transformation efforts, and to keep up with the demands of the constituents they serve, they are also coming under increasingly sophisticated attacks that target the expanding attack surface. Addressing this challenge requires a renewed emphasis on strengthening cybersecurity infrastructure and policies based on viable and expedient threat intelligence.
Initiatives such as the Modernizing Government Technology Act call on federal agencies to expand their networks using cloud services and infrastructure, IoT, and more. However, while moving federal workloads to the cloud offers benefits in terms of cost and scalability, maintaining security is another matter. Data sovereignty, for example, is a fundamental requirement that has led Federal agencies tp adopt private cloud solutions at twice the rate of public cloud.
Even worse, “shifting networks from closed to open without considering how to seamlessly integrate security across the new distributed environment can lead to a security patchwork solution that creates gaps for criminals to exploit.” – GCN, Jan 14, 2019
For example, our Threat Landscape Report for Q3 of 2018 shows the percentage of HTTPS traffic traversing networks has risen from 55.4 percent to 72.2 percent in just a year. While encrypted traffic seems like a good idea (hijacked data that has been properly encrypted is useless), it can also leave government networks susceptible to attacks if not done correctly—malware hidden in encrypted streams can go undetected if it is not inspected, but diminished performance due to the CPU overhead required to properly inspection that traffic can impact productivity.
At the same time, the attack surface of today’s networks is growing at the fastest rate ever. And the goal of cybercriminals is to target every expansion of those networks. Evidence of that that is shown by the growth in the number of exploits detected per organization. Our Threat Landscape Report for Q4 of 2018 shows that number grew 10%, while the number of unique exploits—i.e., new attacks designed for a specific target—increased 5%.
“To address these sorts of challenges, the federal government has developed cybersecurity initiatives in conjunction with those for modernization to minimize the new risks being introduced by digital transformation. The Cybersecurity Executive Order, for example, emphasizes using modernization efforts to increase defenses from advanced threats, while Trusted Internet Connection 3.0 addresses security changes brought on by cloud adoption.” – GCN, Jan 14, 2019
These initiatives require Federal agencies to implement advanced security infrastructures designed to combat the new threats targeting cloud and IoT environments.
As agencies adopt and perfect new modernization strategies and transformation solutions, they should do so with specific attack vectors in mind. For example, botnets are not only becoming more sophisticated, they are also becoming harder to detect. The average amount of time that botnets dwell inside a network without being detected increased by 15% in Q4, growing to an average of nearly 12 infection days per organization. Likewise, cybercriminals are increasingly targeting IoT devices, with 4 of the top 12 exploits recorded for Q4 targeting IP security cameras—devices that are specifically being increasingly integrated into IT networks.
As government agencies work to protect their networks from these and other threats brought on by digital transformation, there are a few steps they can take.
Government IT modernization requires a distributed network that incorporates IoT devices, cloud infrastructure, and SaaS applications. Unfortunately, distributed networks also mean a larger attack surface for cybercriminals to exploit. As agencies revamp their security infrastructure, they must leverage integrated and automated security tools combined with reliable threat intelligence to guide their strategic decisions.
For more information on how Federal agencies can address the challenges of modernization, read the full article, entitled “How cybercrime feeds on modernization,” posted on the GCN website on Jan 14, 2019.
Read more about how Fortinet secures government agencies.