Why governments need secure third-party remote access

Take a moment to think about the fallout of a government data breach. Security systems threatened. Federal departments, like the Treasury and State departments, compromised. Constituents’ trust displaced. Unfortunately, this was a reality for the U.S. government in late 2020. The SolarWinds supply chain hack affected 18,000 organizations, several of which were U.S. government agencies. While we’d like to believe that these highly guarded organizations are protected from outside breaches due to enhanced government IT security systems, this isn’t always the case. Government networks store and process highly sensitive and often regulated information. The volume and depth of confidential information stored within government systems have the potential to disrupt an entire country’s framework, so it’s no wonder hackers deploy the best of their cyberattacks at such large infrastructures. And as technology, digitization, and IoT advance, so do the skillsets of hackers, which is why governments of all sizes need a comprehensive and thorough cybersecurity strategy to protect themselves from attacks.

Government IT needs heightened cybersecurity solutions

Remote access has become more than desktop sharing and VPN usage. The due diligence required to vet each third party accessing government systems is critical to network safety but daunting as a task. How do you know which third parties can be trusted? The truth is that anytime third parties have access to a private network, that network is vulnerable to an attack.  So how do you protect your network? You implement a cybersecurity solution that is purposefully built to identify each user, authorize access to third parties based on the specific user’s need, and audit any third-party network activity Government cybersecurity solutions should be able to verify, identify, and manage each third party accessing government networks. The goal for each remote access session should be optimizing the time to resolution for the problems each third party is responsible for, so less time is required for login and access, and more time is spent on the issue at hand. A proper government cybersecurity strategy should also be built around the concept of Zero Trust. A system as robust as the government - whether national, state, or local - should have the most secure points of access into their networks. A Zero Trust approach compartmentalizes the authorization of third parties to the specific access points needed for that specific user. It gives granular control and permissions so third parties are not spending unnecessary time in applications they shouldn’t be in. They are in to do the service required of them, and out when they are done.   If trouble does arise, government systems must trace the source of the attack and easily identify the point of entry. Government cybersecurity solutions should provide full visibility of each third party’s network activity, as well as provide an audit trail of all activity while within the system. And to make sure compliance requirements are accurately met, documentation should be gathered, such as activity logs, video recordings, and keystroke tracking.

There's no such thing as too secure

Does this seem overboard? When compared to the amount of potential damage that could wreak havoc on government agencies or their constituents, there’s no such thing as having “too secure” of a system. On a national level, government agencies are risking the safety of their constituents when overlooking third-party access and network security. On a state and local level, governments would be compromising the everyday protection of their citizens and putting thousands of people at risk if a data breach were to occur. Being proactive in a cybersecurity approach is not only beneficial - and critical - to a government’s cybersecurity strategy; it’s defining and integral to the government’s success.