The need to digitally transform operations while maintaining cyber security is atop the list of concerns for many federal agencies. In fact, it is estimated that the U.S. spent upwards of 80 billion dollars on this challenge in 2023. The integration of “work from anywhere” or “hybrid work” models heighten this demand as it has expanded nearly every industry outside the four walls of the office. Technology and IT modernization is almost a requirement for those looking to stay competitive and offer the right work benefits, but it comes with a changing risk profile.

Government agencies house highly private data points like mortgages, deeds, birth and death certificates, medical records, Social Security numbers, and military records. Keeping these digital documents protected is crucial to maintaining citizen privacy and national security. To improve cyber security and overall operations from anywhere work takes people, the federal government is replacing or updating legacy computing systems to perform in today’s digital world. As agencies look to modernize these systems, they should seek reliable, accessible, and rugged hardware and software that also meets these requirements.

Using the right hardware

Many federal government workers access classified data. Whether on the go via laptops or tablets or on a desktop in a federal or home office, securing the transfer, storage, and access to classified data is crucial. Workers are the first line of defense for keeping data secure, so the equipment they use to perform their duties must meet the rigid security requirements the federal government requires wherever they work.

Hardware components — such as contactless and insertable smartcard readers and fingerprint scanners — combined with password complexity, multi-factor authentication, and auto-lock timeouts to prevent unauthorized mobile data access are becoming non-negotiable in federal IT infrastructure. Remote work also adds to the challenge, as devices could be lost, stolen, or compromised devices. Additional hardware security defenses, such as removable hard drives, offer another layer of protection. They let employees safeguard data by removing the disc drive when they need to leave their laptop behind, ship their device somewhere, or bring it in for maintenance. This, along with integrated hard drive encryption, provides multiple layers of defense to comply with regulatory mandates.

To bolster hardware security measures, agencies should consider selecting devices that are modular. That way, rather than constantly purchasing new fleets of devices with each new security measure or system mandate, agencies can make tailored upgrades. With the option to remove and add on physical hardware such as scanners and card readers, agencies can upgrade devices as new technologies are available versus purchasing, imaging, and deploying entirely new fleets. It also lets device fleets be reimaged and used for different roles and responsibilities, saving valuable IT budget.

Data security for the hybrid world

The shifting cyber security landscape, evolution in threat sophistication, and prevalence of hybrid working environments is a potent combination. Agencies need to ensure efficient threat management to determine the optimum response to vulnerabilities and manual monitoring of device activity and logins isn’t it. 80% of IT employees state that manual investigations slow down their overall threat response times, opening the door for more exposures. Plus, there just aren’t enough IT employees to complete this manual oversight, which will be an issue as the federal labor shortage continues. With the number of geographically dispersed workforces increasing, this makes effective security management and threat mitigation even more important.

Software is here to help. Federal agencies are incorporating automated threat detection and analysis software into computing devices. Artificial intelligence and automation help organizations save over a million dollars in data breach costs and accelerates data breach identification and containment by over 100 days on average. Similarly, agencies should consider opportunities to partner on managed IT solutions or engineering services. For example, a technology partner might offer full hardware and software management to relieve burdens on federal IT teams and have an ecosystem of providers that offer added benefits.

This could include mobile device management, asset tracking, and BIOS-embedded solutions that are integrated into the hardware to help promote security. For instance, mobile-based asset tracking provides real-time updates on the location, condition, and physical custody of a particular piece of equipment to minimize threats. While not all hands-on tasks can be replaced by software, options to supplement or replace repetitive manual tasks help agencies maintain security compliance regardless of worker location.

For federal agencies to protect and defend in a modern world, they need to think holistically and creatively about how to enhance IT infrastructure from the ground up. It is a multifaceted task that will involve upgrading hardware for secure modularity, integrating the latest software for real-time monitoring and threat detection, and equipping IT teams with appropriate automated solutions and additional help from trusted partners. This approach will allow federal agencies to take advantage of the latest digital solutions while maintaining the security requirements that the industry demands.

Emily Kimmett is Federal Marketing Manager at Panasonic Connect North America.

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