3 priority areas of government cybersecurity

There are many areas of focus when it comes to developing cybersecurity methods. The government has identified 16 critical infrastructures that need to be protected from cyberattacks, but other concerns that defense teams are working to prevent cannot be over looked. From issues of widespread national security to government functionality to citizen protections, here are three of the risks that agencies are working to mitigate.

1. Threats to the national grid
Attacks on the Ukraine's power grid have been widely publicized to start 2016, prompting many to question if this could be a potential area of weakness for the U.S. as well. According to cybersecurity reporters with the Associated Press, the answer to that question is yes. 

Breaches of the U.S. power grid systems have happened before, though fortunately not with widespread consequences yet. Foreign hackers were able to connect to American power generators and other public utilities in 2012 and 2013, while 2014 saw international spyware infect some of the nation's energy companies. 

An attack on the systems that power the nation could be catastrophic, which is why there is an elevated focus on boosting cybersecurity measures around the grid. With so many of the national's critical systems reliant on the grid, government agencies cannot afford to look away from the potential risk of cyberattacks to it.

2. Identity theft in stolen records
Another key area of focus is on protecting the private records of American citizens. Government Technology reported on a hack of the IRS in January as Americans began to file their annual taxes. More than 100,000 citizens had their private data accessed, which puts them at risk of identity theft.

People are expected to provide the government with access to many of their personal details, and they need to believe that this information is safe once it's in the government's hands. Focusing on cybersecurity efforts that thoroughly encrypt and securely store citizens' private data is an important step for agencies to take to help repair some of the damage these breaches have caused. Gov Tech suggests that it's a hard battle for the government to fight – as IT teams update to more secure programs, cybercriminals are updating their hacking methods. Government agencies need to constantly improve their technologies to ensure they have the latest tools for fighting against these type of attacks.

Protecting government databases is a major goal of cybersecurity programs. Protecting government databases is a major goal of cybersecurity programs.

3. Threats to national security
There are many ways that national defenses could be targeted by malicious attacks. One of the top concerns the Department of Homeland Security lists is the protection of the information technology sector. This area is important because so many necessary national functions are tied into IT and communication systems. The National Infrastructure Protection Plan has specific strategies for how to strengthen the safety measures of IT frameworks. 

Within the information technology safety plan are details about cyber preparedness, response to emergencies and recovery programs should anything go wrong. The field is tested to find potential areas of weakness so that appropriate patches can be created.

Staying on the cutting edge of cyber safety
Administration agencies have their work cut out for them at every level of government when it comes to predicting and preventing areas of risk. The best thing that these groups can do is educate their staff on the latest advances in technology to improve cybersecurity methods. Keeping employees in the know and running the latest software will recognize and cut off any kind of security threat before it gets too far. Using a team of IT experts to help integrate these systems can make the process easier and more effective.