Security is the utmost priority for IT decision-makers in public organizations like state and local government and education. Government agencies and schools are frequent, highly visible targets for cybercriminals, and their systems contain personal data that is extremely valuable, such as Social Security numbers.
In addition, the impact of cybersecurity threats from well-funded nation-states has increased risk exponentially. The public sector experiences more cyber-incidents than any other industry, according to research by Accenture. They are also at the front lines in responding to and being vulnerable to potentially disastrous events.
School districts, colleges and universities are also increasingly vulnerable. Cybercriminals see them as potentially “softer targets,” according to the CoSN 2019 K-12 IT Leadership Survey Report. The shift to remote learning in 2020, with many more students working from home, has increased the potential attack surface and made cybersecurity a greater priority than ever before.
This more sophisticated and challenging threat environment comes at a time when many IT teams are already looking at IT modernization to increase agility, manage costs and improve the user experience.
Given these challenges, security must be an essential component of any IT modernization initiative, particularly for public organizations. IT teams should ensure that they are investing in best-of-breed infrastructure solutions that:
- Enhance cyber-resilience and privacy protections.
- Expand the use of automation to mitigate the risk of downtime and human error.
- Use intelligence, visibility and insight to prevent data loss and data corruption from the edge to the core to the cloud.
- Leverage the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework.
Beyond that, there are many other factors to consider when incorporating security into government and education IT modernization initiatives. For instance:
- What types of access controls do you have for end-user devices? Do you use multifactor authentication? Passwords? Smart cards/security tokens? Biometrics such as fingerprint readers or facial recognition? Auto-lock screens?
- How do you protect against the latest malware threats? Do you use automated intrusion detection and response? Security awareness training? Regular backups to cloud or off-site servers? Regular security and software updates? BIOS/firmware boot protection?
- How will your organization incorporate artificial intelligence?
- Where will the Internet of Things make IT infrastructure more vulnerable?
- How will your organization leverage shared threat intelligence?
- How will multicloud environments be managed?
- How will stringent compliance requirements guide IT modernization?
- What is the most efficient and cost-effective disaster recovery plan?
To encapsulate these challenges, an IT security strategy should be built with three key tenets in mind. They are:
- Protect your data.It is impossible to overstate the importance of data protection. This means continuously protecting data wherever it resides, from the edge to the core to the cloud. It means incorporating encryption, multifactor authentication, threat intelligence and other modern cybersecurity solutions where and when necessary to prevent threats and respond to them before they can do harm. It means deploying and testing disaster recovery plans to facilitate data protection and ensure rapid cyber-recovery.
- Enhance reliability.Public organizations must ensure reliability and resiliency while dealing with increasingly complex workloads and an ever-changing threat environment. IT teams must use automation wherever possible to minimize the risk of human error and leverage end-to-end visibility and security analytics to maximize their ability to identify, protect, detect, respond and recover. Achieving reliability may also mean reducing the number of vendors you use in cybersecurity and working with trusted partners that offer a holistic, end-to-end approach, seamlessly integrating cybersecurity with your broader IT modernization portfolio.
- Ensure peace of mind. At the end of the day, it’s all about peace of mind—not just for the IT and cybersecurity teams but your users as well. To truly deliver digital transformation, users should be comfortable that their data and privacy are not at risk when they connect to your services. According to one study, 74% of Americans say public officials should take steps to protect their constituents’ personal data. From the IT perspective, peace of mind can mean a variety of factors, such as mitigating financial risks, protecting your investment, reducing operational costs, delivering a great user experience, ensuring proper IT governance and feeling confident in your security training, awareness, compliance and data hygiene practices.
When it comes to modernizing state and local government and education IT with these three tenets in mind, it is important to choose partners with proven infrastructure solutions as well as deep government and education sector and security expertise.
It’s not just about buying technology. It’s about partnering to protect your data, enhancing reliability and giving you and your constituents the peace of mind necessary to take advantage of all that today’s digital world has to offer. For more information on how Dell Technologies can support your organization’s security objectives, please visit: