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Federal Insights

Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Don’t Ignore the Network

by walkerj on ‎10-26-2015 07:29 AM (15,814 Views)

After this summer’s high profile OPM breach, there’s no question that cyber attacks are affecting the federal government with an alarming frequency. According to the Government Accountability Office, data breaches at government agencies involving personal data have jumped 91 percent over the past eight years.


Federal CIO Tony Scott said that one of the biggest security challenges facing government is protecting data on outdated systems. He compared the process to that of installing air bags in a 1965 Ford Mustang – a technically difficult job to do correctly. This Cybersecurity Awareness Month, it’s time to consider all elements of a secure environment – starting with the network.


The first step to a more secure environment is building the foundation for modern security solutions. In many cases, agencies operate on outdated network infrastructure designed way before today’s security threats. As a result, even with appropriate security in place, gaps remain for hackers to exploit. In fact, only one quarter of respondents to a recent survey believe they have full network-level security protection.


Security and Efficiency in the Workplace


Workplace security is a focus of this year’s National Cybersecurity Awareness month. A secure agency workplace depends not only on employee awareness of their roles in keeping information secure, but also on providing staff with an environment that balances security and performance.


Agencies need modern network solutions that can protect systems without sacrificing performance because encryption solutions and firewalls often impact bandwidth. According to a recent survey, 75 percent of IT professionals experience a decline in network performance when firewall, anti-virus, and deep packet inspection security appliances and tools were activated. Alarmingly, 40 percent of respondents disable security functions to avoid their impact on application performance.


If robberies were as common in your neighborhood as breaches are within federal agencies, you wouldn’t leave your door unlocked! For federal agencies today, removing security functions, or leaving the door open, isn’t an option. As recent breaches have shown, even non-classified data flowing on networks requires a layer of security. Brocade’s IPSec solution addresses this by offering wire speed inline encryption for modular routers. The impact on network performance is eliminated with support for up to 44Gbps of encrypted throughput. As a result, agencies don’t need to choose between performance and security.


Using the Network to Proactively Identify Breaches in Federal IT


Despite government’s best efforts, there will undoubtedly be many more attempted breaches in years to come. In looking at recent breaches, agencies must be aware of their network traffic. Identifying abnormal behavior can keep breaches from causing serious damage. The network can be a tool in identifying these abnormalities.  


Intelligent networks can flag users accessing data unrelated to their jobs or logging in from foreign locations. Brocade’s Flow Optimizer enables the network to play a key role in understanding anomalous traffic patterns and behaviors. These capabilities allow network managers to mitigate network attacks and reduce potential risks.


Federal agencies cannot afford a network that isn’t secure. If government wants to protect against cyber attacks, the network must be recognized as a tool to support a more secure IT environment. Built on open standards, Ethernet fabrics, and a software-centric foundation, the New IP is an innovative approach to networking that empowers agencies to achieve the unlimited possibilities of the cloud, mobility, and Big Data while also securely protecting their data.


Further, since New IP networks are based on open standards, they make it easy for agencies to select security solutions without having to worry about whether or not they will be interoperable with their current systems. Recognizing that the network is a tool to prevent attacks will leave to a more secure IT environment – which is why agencies must modernize, today.


For additional findings, please visit our white paper on data security challenges and the importance of an encrypted network.