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Federal CSOs Split On Their Views Of Agency Security Posture

In survey, only half of CSOs think they have the ability to impact the security posture of their agency; more than one-quarter say their posture has slipped

The chief security officers at major federal agencies are worried about the threats currently faced by their organizations, and many of them don't think have the resources they need to defend against them, according to a study published today.

In a report compiled by Cisco and (ISC)2, only half of federal CSOs think they have a significant ability to affect the security posture of their agencies. Half of the CSOs say their postures have improved since 2009; 28 percent feel that things are worse, and approximately 20 percent feel that no change has occurred.

Twenty-seven percent of federal CSOs say software vulnerabilities are the most severe threat to their agencies; 24 percent cited insider threats. Only 21 percent cited threats from foreign nation-states as the most severe threat to their agencies.

Yet federal CSOs are feeling the pressure to do more on the political side than on the technical side, the study says. More than half (54 percent) say their jobs are becoming more political/policy-oriented, while 51 percent say their jobs are becoming more managerial in nature. Only 26 percent said their duties are becoming more technical.

"The nature of their jobs is changing," says Lynn McNulty, (ISC)2's director of government affairs. "What they do is becoming much more policy-oriented, and their duties are becoming less technical and more managerial."

David Graziano, federal security solutions manager at Cisco, agrees. "Security is becoming more recognized as a central part of each agency's mission, and it's affecting the CSO's duties," he says. "A few years ago, security was mostly about FISMA report cards. Now it's more core to the agency's entire operation."

While agency CSOs are more concerned about broader issues, they are also adapting to new technologies, Graziano observes. In the report, 78 percent of agencies said they are implementing Web 2.0 technologies. "Two years ago, they seemed to fear them," Graziano observes. "Now they are embracing them."

The same can't be said for cloud computing, according to the report. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they do not yet use cloud computing because they are uncertain as to whether they will be able to replicate IT security policies and data loss prevention processes in the cloud environment.

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Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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