Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity: Whom do you trust?

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Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis changed how a lot of people view contractors and their role in the government. In cybersecurity, where trust is one of the most fundamental pieces in securing and defending networks, many are wondering if the government should rely so heavily on contractors.

But across the board, sources stress the need to refrain from judging an entire segment of the workforce based on the actions of a few. Federal employees would certainly not want to be judged by the actions of notorious spies such as Aldrich Ames or Robert Hanssen.

"It's important to understand that contractors are no more or less threats against classified systems than government employees," said Evan Lesser, managing director of ClearanceJobs.com. "Better surveillance technology needs to be in place to catch people who wish to steal classified data. USB flash-drive ports need to be removed from classified network computers. Additionally, workers caught stealing classified information should be heavily prosecuted to make examples of them to others considering doing the same."

Other sources said more attention should be focused on securing systems against insider threats, including improving the clearance process.

"It may be a question of speeding up the clearance process and being cognizant of 'need to know,'" said Clark DeHaven, senior director of corporate strategy at LGS Innovations. "We need to think about how we set up layers of protections so that if something is compromised, it can be quickly quarantined. If Snowden was a systems administrator, why did he have access to all that information and [those] documents? I expect a lot more conversation about how to implement 'need to know' as a way of quarantining insider threats to systems."

Howard Schmidt, formerly White House cybersecurity coordinator and now executive director of SAFECode and a partner at Ridge-Schmidt Cyber, agreed that it's an insider-threat problem, not a contractor problem.

"It's inappropriate to paint all contractors because of the actions of one or a few," he said. "Instead, focus should be on worrying about the insider threat. There are reasons why we have contractors in addition to civilians and military. You can't brand one segment."

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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