Assets, Data, Network and Access Strategies for Success

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Asset management, data protection and security, challenge agencies to stay ahead of the cyber curve

Agencies are facing increasing and more sophisticated cyberattacks that underscore the need to modernize government cybersecurity and bolster cyber resilience.

The world has changed over the past year, driven by high profile breaches, such as the SolarWinds attack. Agencies have to protect their assets and data, monitor who has access to their data, and secure their network and software in an ever evolving cyber landscape.

“Cybersecurity 101” is knowing what is on the network, said John Fanguy, chief technology officer at CyberRes Federal, a Micro Focus line of busines. “Now, there is an emphasis on what is running on each asset.”

Asset management is nothing new; however, it is becoming more complex. Agencies are struggling to understand their asset inventory and their cyber risk --and the growth of the Internet of Things has made this even more difficult, he said.

“IoT highlights the bigger problem looming,” Fanguy said. “Many of us think of assets as a server or a laptop. The reality is there are six to ten times the number of IoT devices on the network as laptops or servers, and hundreds times the number of different operating systems.”

Agencies have begun to ask industry for help with improving IoT awareness monitoring and related capabilities, he said.

Data protection and security is another area that is becoming more challenging for agencies as the amount of data they manage continues to grow. They need to know what data they have, where it is located, who has access, what and when is the data archived, and where is the data being used.

The data discovery phase is a good place to start. “Once agencies know what data they have, it becomes easier to holistically look at data protection and answer these questions,” Fanguy said. Often agency leaders don’t have a complete real-time picture of what data they need to monitor for access and breaches. “This is an easy first step.”

To help protect certain data from being exposed, agencies can anonymize or pseudonymize it, making it valueless to hackers. One approach is to apply format preserving encryption to pieces of data, such as part of an employee’s social security number.

“This protects the data prior to the application actually accessing it,” he said. This approach is easy to implement, he added, because it only requires adding two to three additional lines of code to the applications accessing any of the relevant data fields.

In addition, stateless tokenization and pseudonymization protects data by encrypting it at the source, and decrypting it rarely. It allows agencies to de-identify sensitive data, such as social security numbers, but still use the data in its protected state for data analytics and statistics.

Access management is a fairly complex capability in the government, Fanguy said, and will likely be the most expensive and longest programs for agencies to implement.

“To do it well, you have to touch most systems in the agency, and many of these systems run on mainframes,” he said. “There are very few solutions that provide access management and multifactor authentication for mainframe type systems.”

One approach that can help is using risk-based adaptive access controls, which rely on risk-based scoring to grant or deny a user access. The parameters for this include geolocation, IP address header, device footprint, and last cookie login. Most agencies will use 30 to 40 different attributes to adaptively risk score.

Although it will likely take larger agencies at least five years to implement a proper access management, deploying risk-based adaptive controls “is one key feature agencies can stand up as a service” to help them on their journey, he said.

This content is made possible by our sponsor MicroFocus. The editorial staff was not involved in its preparation.

NEXT STORY: CDM Evolution: Unmanaged Devices and Fusion of Asset Visibility

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