New strategies needed for federal cybersecurity efforts

Few would argue that U.S. federal cybersecurity efforts are satisfactory in their current state. On the contrary, most believe that agencies need to significantly improve their defenses if they want to remain safe and protected from the evolving threats they face.

The real question is how the different departments can go about upgrading their cybersecurity posturing. Agencies face numerous challenges in this area, but none that are insurmountable. In many cases, though, new strategies will prove essential.

Budgetary issues
As is so often the case with the federal government, budget constraints are a major challenge for federal agencies when it comes to cybersecurity, as Forbes recently reported. The source noted that many observers expect that federal IT spending will decrease in fiscal year 2015, thanks largely to overarching budgetary issues. However, the scope of cybersecurity spending reductions will vary greatly, as most agencies will be left to their own discretion when allocating their IT budgets.

The source suggested that while it's possible that some agency leaders will significantly cut their spending in this area, most will likely strive to minimize the reductions. The sheer number of cybersecurity breaches in both the public and private sector have thoroughly demonstrated the importance of commitment in this area. Cutting corners can put organizations at risk. At the same time, though, limited budgets force agencies to make compromises and look for ways to save money.

Forbes noted that there are financial costs associated with cybersecurity breaches, as remediation and recovery are expensive processes. This suggests that budget-conscious agency leaders should not be too eager to cut their cybersecurity spending.

Getting strategic
In order to find the right balance between cost cutting and reliable cybersecurity, agencies must become more strategic. 

For example, in a separate Forbes report, cybersecurity expert John Cassidy noted that agencies may need to invest in more automated solutions

"There is also plenty of work to be done around automation, which frees limited manpower for more sophisticated cyber protection activities," he said, the source reported.

Additionally, Cassidy emphasized the value of managed security services and other third-party solutions. He explained that managed security solutions for the federal government can be deployed faster and are more scalable than most in-house options, and can also help agencies to save money. 

On a related note, agencies can also significantly improve their cybersecurity capabilities while cutting costs by partnering with a third-party security consulting firm with robust public sector experience. Many agencies, even security-focused departments, engage in risky behaviors on a regular basis. In many cases, this is due to a lack of expertise among agency leaders and employees. A third-party consulting firm can help agencies to identify their cybersecurity weak points and develop more robust, dependable policies. 

Additionally, providing employees with training to help them better understand cybersecurity-related issues can greatly improve their performance and reduce the risk of a costly data breach. While it may be difficult to find the money to invest in such education at this time, the long-term savings of avoiding a breach will more than make up for this cost.