Biggest Security Threats to Federal Agencies

Today an article in Dark Reading titled Federal Agencies: Online Collaboration, Cyber Terrorism, Mobility, Web 2.0 Their Biggest Security Threats outlines the results of a survey by the Ponemon Institute on what ails our government’s agencies the most in terms of security threats and concerns. The survey of 217 senior-level federal IT executives yielded some pretty extraordinary findings.

Of particular concern to me is the results of the survey regarding wireless, “Wireless devices were the most serious target in their organizations, with 57 percent pointing them out as such..“. I haven’t read the report yet, but the cyber threat potential by the fast growing security threat to information, privacy, and national security since the Internet is showing no signs whatsoever of slowing down. The Mobilization Effect on every organization (business or governmental) on the planet is affected by the increasing and insatiable desire of people to be mobile, free of location specificity, yet maintaining access to all the same information when they were tethered.

This goes both ways. The legitimate AND illegitimate or malicious doers are taking advantage of the runaway adoption of wireless devices and technologies, in particular cellphones. This week there was increased coverage of a worm affecting unlocked iPhones apparently having started in Australia but now making its way around the world. Why would that matter to an IT security professional? These same iPhones (and the growing population of unlocked iPhones with SSH holes) are accessing organizational email, being connected to PCs/laptops for charging or tethering, storing and sending documents, having access to LDAP databases through ActiveSync, storing huge caches of contact information, on and on. Not too long ago these were some of the same reasons used for securing desktops then laptops afterwards. Yet the awareness or acknowledgement of the mobile problem, or Tsunami of Insecurity, is in an early stage…albeit growing rapidly!

What’s the solution? Stay tuned for the next post on this topic…

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