INDUSTRY INSIGHT

How data security at the edge can future-proof your agency

Digital transformation in government is never easy. Agencies juggle strategies, mandates and frameworks -- all in search of best practices for managing complex IT environments that empower mission success. Factor in edge computing, and these pressures grow exponentially.

The edge is anything outside of a traditional data center, including data at rest or in transit between mobile devices (both bring-your-own and corporate-owned, personally-enabled, or COPE, devices), internet-of-things sensors, branch offices, mobile workstations and servers. And while edge computing brings enhanced agility, data processing and other benefits to the federal workspace, agencies also endure growing pains as they come to grips with just how complex it is to maintain a modern and secure connected environment that accommodates an ever-growing web of devices and connectivity.

So let’s take a closer look at the edge as the government’s latest and toughest proving ground. How can agency IT leaders and practitioners better understand edge data security today, and where can they improve to better mitigate vulnerabilities for tomorrow?

Complexity and risk at the edge

The rise of the mobile government employee -- and the proliferation of accompanying endpoints, battlefield applications and remote branch office networks -- is prompting a necessary reevaluation of how agencies should secure data.

The mobile world is pushing data further and further to the edge -- IDC estimates at least 40% of IoT-created data is now stored, processed and analyzed close to or at the edge of the network. Pair that statistic with findings from a recent Acronis SCS survey showing just 21% and 31% of mid-level federal IT managers and hands-on IT staff, respectively, feel excellent about their ability to keep the edge secure, and the challenge of safeguarding data becomes even more mission critical.

Historically, agencies have prioritized protecting on-premise data centers through methods ranging from log analytics and behavior monitoring to anti-virus software and standard data encryption. While such efforts play an important role in any organization’s overall security posture, they miss a key element. That is, the growing importance of edge security scenarios, such as how to recover data from a lost or stolen mobile device, address a hardware malfunction in a remote office or stop a ransomware attack that reencrypts information.

Adding to the challenge is a troubling awareness gap between federal IT decision makers and those actually responsible for implementing IT security solutions. A full 79% of senior executives polled in the Acronis SCS survey self-identified as edge security experts, while just 29% of their front-line IT/technical experts said the same. Clearly, realizing better edge security at the federal level will first require better communication and understanding within and across IT departments.

The benefits of making your agency “future proof”

The first step to building a resiliency in government agencies that are embracing employee mobility and modernizing through cloud migration is ensuring data -- whether on a remote device or desktop -- is fully backed up and recoverable within minutes of a breach or incident.

While secure file sharing and better identity access and privilege monitoring are also key for fostering efficient, cost-effective and secure transitions to a more mobile environment, recent ransomware headlines make clear: Organizations that embrace a dependable backup and recovery solution are more secure and resilient in the face of cyberthreats, operational outages and other disruptions -- while those that do not stand to suffer unnecessary and costly downtime.

If a workstation goes down or a device goes missing, advanced disaster recovery and backup capabilities empower agencies to bring systems, servers, workstations and applications back online quickly. The data, no matter where it resides, is instantly operational from the latest backup as if it were never lost in the first place. Incorporating the tried-and-true 3-2-1 rule of data backup and storage -- keeping three copies of data (one production and two backups) stored on two on-site storage media and in one off-site location, like the cloud -- can help organizations adopt such an approach with confidence and ease.

A sound backup and recovery solution marks the difference between surviving or succumbing to the next system breakdown or ransomware attack. And while the expansion of mobile data and devices brings further complexity to the field, government IT and security leaders can rely on backup and recovery tools to strengthen their overall cyber posture, even at the very edge of their networks.

About the Author

John Zanni is the CEO of Acronis SCS.

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