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Government departments and contractors are rapidly undergoing digital transformations to public and hybrid cloud infrastructures, and now more than ever require increased network visibility to reduce complexity and ensure security.

Prior to COVID-19, government agencies already faced immense challenges in securing their on-premises, public and hybrid cloud systems from increasing data breaches and human-introduced misconfigurations. With the coronavirus, government sector organizations experience even more threats, particularly when it comes to obtaining data and information from government employees who are now working remotely.

These cyberthreats are nothing new to the government sector. Only a couple of months ago, a third-party government supplier exposed hundreds of thousands of applications containing birth-certificate data via an Amazon Web Services (AWS) storage bucket misconfiguration.

Shortly before the pandemic peak, FireMon surveyed government IT and security professionals for its annual State of Hybrid Cloud Security Report, which uncovered the widespread shortage of security personnel trying to keep up with the pace of cloud deployments; minimal budgets; and a lack of automation and visibility across disparate tools and systems. Top findings included:

  • Digital transformation is outpacing security: According to the report, 54% believe the pace of their cloud deployments have surpassed their ability to protect them.
  • Security spend lags behind the rate of cloud adoption: In fact, 77% spend less than 25% of their budget on cloud security. Even more shockingly, 7% of government respondents do not spend any of their security budget on the cloud.
  • Shrinking security teams add to the pain points of manual processes: Despite ongoing government cyberthreats and data breaches, security budgets and teams remain small. Of the survey respondents, 53% have less than 10-person security teams, and 33% of this group had less than five-person security teams.
  • Misconfigurations continue to plague the enterprise: According to Gartner, through 2025, 99% of all cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault and 99% of all firewall breaches through 2023 will be due to firewall misconfigurations, not system flaws.
  • Security tooling is fragmented: Only 22% use tools that work across multiple environments to manage hybrid networks.

In the State of Hybrid Security Report, almost a quarter of respondents agree that misconfigurations are the biggest threat, but 43% still use manual processes over automation. And almost half of government sector security teams only use manual processes to secure their hybrid cloud environmentsThis lack of automation and reliance on error-prone manual tasks are complicating the problem, and misconfigurations and data breaches will only increase with a dispersed and reduced security workforce because of COVID-19.

How does the government sector stem the tide and do more with less? Automation. Government organizations need to automate the process of configuration change. Using automated tools can provide real-time cloud visibility and control as well as support overworked security teams. It can also maximize resources and help stem the tide of data breaches during this time of rising cybercrime.

As our post COVID-19 workforce will still include a distributed government workforce, the challenges of a dispersed IT staff will become part of the new normal. Even when (and if) people return to the office building, government organizations will continue to face the same challenges they faced before the pandemic: shrinking security budgets and lack of skilled workforce. As direct targets for valuable information and data, the government sector must advance its use of automation now to do more with less and prepare for increased cyberthreats.

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