Safe public sector cloud integration demands cautious approach

Cloud integration continues to pick up steam in the public sector. In many cases, agency leaders are facing pressure to look to cloud services for a broader variety of purposes, from email to data storage to unified communications and beyond. At the same time, these decision-makers are beginning to see the value of cloud services firsthand, and consequently choosing to increase their cloud adoption efforts above and beyond requirements.

As this trend accelerates, cloud-related cybersecurity concerns will become increasingly prominent. Considering the significance and sensitivity of the information that many public sector firms are responsible for, breaches can be devastating incidents. The best way to ensure that cloud solutions remain sufficiently well-protected at all times is by adopting a cautious approach.

Knowledge is power
Perhaps the single most important aspect to any cloud security strategy is awareness. Specifically, agency IT leaders need to understand what aspects of their cloud environments may be targeted for attack, as Dave Mahon, chief security officer for CenturyLink, recently told Forbes' Sushas Sreedhar.

"If you don't realize your IT systems are vulnerable to attacks, how are you going to be able to prevent them?" he said, the source reported.

Sreedhar noted that the cloud represents a distinct change from legacy IT infrastructure, and consequently traditional security methods will not necessarily be applicable to these environments. IT leaders need to recognize and react to these differences if they hope to keep their agencies' cloud-stored data and other assets safe. 

Outside assistance
Additionally, the writer emphasized the security benefits of managed services. For some, perhaps most, federal agencies, their in-house IT resources are simply not sufficient to oversee and monitor their cloud environments. The only way to truly achieve a secure solution is by employing the services of a third-party firm that can bring superior expertise and experience to the table. 

"Managed security services can offer an effective solution, providing up-to-date, controllable tools and procedures that can secure clouds and virtual networks in real-time," Sreedhar wrote. "They stay current, update seamlessly and can scale as needed with time. They can also interface with local systems, and run locally on devices while coordinating with the cloud."

Furthermore, third-party cybersecurity firms can provide training and educational services to agencies, helping employees better understand how to use cloud resources safely and effectively. In many cases, organizations' cloud-related security breaches are the result of simple misunderstandings or ignorance on the part of insiders. Any cautious, reliable approach to cloud security needs to take this risk into account.

Regular updates
No matter how sound an agency's approach to cloud adoption is, a key factor that will determine its ultimate success or failure will be ongoing maintenance. Cloud risks are constantly evolving as cyberattackers grow in number and develop increasingly sophisticated, effective strategies for penetrating organizations' networks. Staying ahead of these dangers requires a proactive, forward-thinking approach to cybersecurity. 

Again, third-party cybersecurity firms can deliver major value in this area. Perhaps most importantly, these outside organizations can provide a new perspective on an agency's cloud environments and its protective measures. For agency insiders, it can be difficult to adopt a zoomed-out approach, and their intimate familiarity with existing cloud defenses can actually make them blind to certain vulnerabilities. By bringing in a fresh set of eyes – eyes that belong to experienced cloud and cybersecurity professionals – federal departments can better ensure that their cloud policies remain sufficiently sophisticated in the face of evolving cyberthreats.

In all of these cases, it is imperative for agency leaders to seek out high-quality, reputable third-party cloud integration and cybersecurity firms to maximize reliability.