Cyber threats in the government sector continue to grow in both volume and complexity. 58% of state and local government organizations were hit by ransomware in 2021 – a massive 70% increase in the rate of ransomware attacks over the previous year. Furthermore, 59% of organizations reported an increase in attack volume and complexity over the last year, and 56% reported an increase in the impact of attacks.
Government agencies are custodians of highly sensitive data, whether national security, critical infrastructure, or information on individual citizens. At the same time, shrinking IT budgets, a skills shortage, cloud adoption, and reliance on a wide network of contractors and third-party vendors are widening the attack surface.
In light of such challenges, government agencies need powerful cybersecurity against financially and politically motivated threat actors who try to steal and manipulate sensitive data, disrupt essential services, and threaten the national assets of government states.
The evolving threat landscape in government agencies
In addition to the growing professionalism and evolving tactics, techniques, and procedures employed by criminal groups, there are a few other factors that are increasing the cybersecurity challenges in this sector:
All government agencies have vast stores of data ranging from personally identifiable information (PII) on citizens: health, digital identification, and tax information, to sensitive commercial corporate data, and state and national level secrets that need to be protected to preserve citizens’ privacy and national security
Phishing attacks in government agencies are rising, and their impact can be enormous given the scale and critical nature of the data they hold
Hostile state-sponsored threat actors hack government systems to disrupt essential services, threaten national assets, and bring embarrassment or erode trust in the government
Hacked government agencies can give access to systems of interlinked government departments, third-party vendors, and corporate entities working with them
Government data needs to be shared between different government agencies and commercial partners across multiple jurisdictions, making secure remote access a necessity
Government agencies must ensure 24/7 availability of government networks and online applications that provide critical services, such as tax payments, healthcare portals, and similar platforms to citizens
Third-party users like social workers or healthcare staff, vendors, and commercial partners need continuous external access to the network from different devices – increasing third-party risks of data privacy breaches, fraud, and credential theft
Cybercriminals are targeting the cloud to exploit less established cybersecurity practices than in traditional on-premises environments
Sophos can help
Sophos MDR is our fully-managed, 24/7 service delivered by experts who specialize in detecting and responding to sophisticated cyberattacks that technology solutions alone cannot prevent. As the world’s most trusted MDR provider and with many hundreds of government sector customers, we have unparalleled depth and breadth of expertise when it comes to threats facing the government sector. Sophos MDR applies learnings from defending one government agency to all others in the sector, generating “community immunity” and elevating everyone’s defenses.
“Sophos MDR frees us up to do more interesting and more development-style work rather than just day-to-day security support.”
UK Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority
Sophos ZTNA eliminates vulnerable VPN clients, enabling government agencies to offer secure and seamless access to resources for remote users defined by policies. It removes implicit trust in your environment’s applications, users, and devices, allowing segmented access to your systems and resources to just those who need it.
Sophos Secure Access Portfolio enables government agencies to connect remote and branch sites, deliver critical cloud and SaaS applications such as Dropbox, Salesforce, and similar services, and share data and information between sites. It includes:
Sophos ZTNA to support secure access to applications
Sophos SD-RED remote Ethernet devices to safely extend your network to branch locations and remote devices
Sophos Wireless access points for easy and secure wireless networking
Sophos Switch for secure access on the LAN
Everything is managed through a single cloud-based security platform, Sophos Central.