Cybercrime is a global threat. Government contractors and federal agencies are attractive targets for hackers looking to make away with classified information, state secrets, and citizens’ data. Agencies and businesses dealing with sensitive duties such as defense, public records, surveillance, and various logistics are particularly under high risk of targeted espionage attacks, ransomware attacks, and data theft.
The General Service Administration (GSA) dictates and manages the cybersecurity frameworks and requirements for any contractor doing business with the federal government. Besides meeting the basic security requirements, here are four ways to reinforce your digital defense strategy:
1. Implement multi-factor authentication
MFA is one of the simplest ways you can protect user accounts against cyberattacks. Multi-factor authentication is a powerful cybersecurity tool that secures user accounts beyond the typical username-password access gateway. After entering the correct username and password, the user is then prompted to enter a secondary authentication factor, usually a code sent to their email or phone.
According to the 2019 Data Breaches Report, 29 percent of all data breach incidences involved stolen credentials. MFA ensures that even if login credentials fall into the wrong hands, they cannot be falsely used to access user accounts.
2. Enforce a strict identity management policy
Ensure that you can identify, manage, and monitor every user or employee logged into the company’s networks, servers, workstations, and secured software. Depending on your end-user hardware and client applications, you might have to install a third-party user-monitoring tool to log and supervise users’ activities.
With a company-wide identity management policy, you can quickly pinpoint any users with malicious intent or risky behavior. It should also instill a sense of accountability and responsibility among your employees; this helps curb insider threats and careless accidents.
3. Update your hardware and software
No matter the kind of software or hardware you use, you need to update or patch them frequently. This is true for computers, servers, network equipment, operating systems, applications, and especially security software — anti-malware, firewalls, encryption tools, etc.
Updates and system upgrades help protect your data with the latest cybersecurity protocols. Most updates also resolve security loopholes and vulnerabilities in older systems. For instance, updating your anti-malware refreshes its malware signature database so that it can detect newer threats. Ensure your data systems only run on the most recent hardware and software to minimize security risks.
4. Train your employees on cybersecurity
Various studies and reports show that most data breaches (80-90 percent) are caused by human errors, such as technical misconfigurations, accidental leaks, misdeliveries, poor privilege management, and falling for phishing schemes. Hackers usually attack the weakest link in any organization; in most cases, innocent employees are the easiest targets. The only way to turn this around is by educating your staff on the risks of cyberthreats and how to identify, evade, and report cyberattack attempts.
Set aside some time and resources to train all your employees on cybersecurity best practices such as cyber-hygiene, strong password policies, personal device protection, and general threat awareness. Ensure that each employee understands their security roles and responsibilities. Make security training part of your onboarding process and arrange regular refresher courses, tests, and drill sessions.
To become a government contractor, you have to prove to the GSA that your company has robust data protection measures in place to deter every possible threat. Setting up and managing formidable cybersecurity frameworks is a continuous process and a long-term commitment for any business handling sensitive information. Ensure you have every loophole sealed because losing the government’s digital assets can lead to costly legal implications, contract termination, and license suspension.