As federal agencies deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on where and how employees work, federal CIOs that were already facing constraints securing their networks prior to the pandemic now have to contend with network security for the new working environment. With some employees working onsite, some remaining completely remote, or some moving their access points between remote locations and federal offices, technology teams are faced with new costs for additional cybersecurity tools to accommodate the shift in where and how people are working.

One resource civilian agencies can use to offset the cost, implementation, and ongoing maintenance of new cybersecurity resources is the Continuous Diagnostic and Mitigation (CDM) Program. The CDM Program is designed to help federal civilian agencies fortify their security posture and fill any gaps by removing barriers. Working with the Department of Homeland Security, the program helps agencies identify cybersecurity risks, prioritize those risks based upon potential impacts, and enable cybersecurity personnel to mitigate the most significant problems first.

Researched and Approved Security Technology – And They Cover the Costs

DHS has already vetted cybersecurity technology tools to determine which ones would support federal agency needs, even during a pandemic. The cost of these vetted tools can be covered by the CDM Program, saving federal agencies time in dealing with procurement contracts and new budget cycles.

As the working world changed nearly overnight due to COVID-19, saving time and money on research and procurement is significant for CIOs trying to keep their networks secure in this new working environment.

Adoption and Implementation

The CDM program supports agencies with a roadmap to implement and optimize the right security tools for that agency, automate processes, and monitor activity in real time. The program is designed to support securing agency networks in four phases:

  • Asset Management What is on the Network?
  • Identity and Access Management
  • Network Security Management
  • Data Protection Management

As agencies implement each phase, technology teams gain access to more information that is fed into easy-to-read dashboards updated in real time, giving them visibility into what is happening across their network. The dashboards receive, aggregate, and display information, which alerts IT teams to issues, risks, and attacks.

With the easy to use dashboards that collect information on an ongoing basis through an automated process, IT teams are empowered to respond to discovered gaps, threats, and attacks.

An added benefit of the dashboards is they help agencies meet Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) reporting.

Asset Management: What is on the Network?

In order to protect a network, CIOs need to understand exactly what is on it. This can be a challenge with employees working in remote locations using multiple devices. During the Asset Management phase, DHS deploys sensors to discover everything connected to the network. Agencies can then focus on problem areas and gaps, and deploy security tools that automate hardware and software asset management, configuration settings, and common vulnerability management capabilities.

Identity and Access Management: Who is on the Network?

Once CIOs know what is on their network, they need to know who is accessing it. In the next phase, sensors look for access points and privilege protocols. Agencies can then configure security tools to handle privilege management and monitor users on their networks. These tools can also detect whether users are engaging in unauthorized activity, and spot unusual trends in behaviors.

Network Security Management: What is Happening on the Network?

Moving into the next phase, technology teams can assess their network security and activity, find security gaps both at the perimeter and inside, and deploy automated tools to monitor their network and identify any threats of anomalies.

Data Protection Management: How is Data Protected?

Phase 4 provides insights and tools to protect data at rest, in transit, and in use to prevent data loss and manage events.

As agencies progress through implementing each phase, technology teams gain access to more information that is fed into easy-to-read dashboards updated in real time.

While some CIOs found it difficult to overcome barriers to adoption prior to the pandemic, including concerns over losing control of their data and uncertainty about existing technology integrating with CDM Program tools, the benefits of strengthening your security posture quickly and with minimal impact to existing budgets during this time is worth exploring.

Regardless if you are ready to jump on board or hesitant to use the program, talking to a service provider about your current security landscape if a good first step. The service provider can help with the implementation of the sensors, recommend the right tools based on the sensor findings, implement those tools, then integrate and optimize them across your network. They can also offer ongoing support in reading dashboard findings and responding to threats. Service providers act as an extension of your technology team, and can support you virtually or onsite based on your current working environment.

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