Government agencies at all levels are falling far behind the private sector in cybersecurity measures, according to a pair of recent studies. If the damage left behind by massive breaches at the Office of Professional Management (OPM) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) weren't enough anecdotal evidence, now there's more data to back up government's lackluster performance.
Most recently, a new study out by SecurityScorecard's research team found that local, state, and federal government agencies have the worst performance indicators among 18 industry verticals, including education, healthcare, and legal organizations--all known laggards on the cybersecurity front. The scoring was based on SecurityScorecard's benchmarking platform, which aggregates from more than 30 million daily security-risk signals and sensors across the Web to form a picture of specific organizations and industries.
Among the areas benchmarked, SecurityScorecard found that low-performing government agencies fared the worst compared to other organizations when it came to malware infection rates, network security indicators, and software patching cadence. Among the 600 agencies included in this study, NASA fared dead last in performance scoring.
"NASA’s primary threat indicators include a large number of detected malware signatures over the past 30 days, tracked P2P activity, various SSL certificate issues, and insecure open ports, varying from IMAP to Telnet to DB ports among others," the report stated.
Leaders at federal agencies at least have a hunch that they aren't doing well: Another study out this month shows that cybersecurity confidence among the senior executive leadership at these agencies is at a low point. Conducted by the Government Business Council and sponsored by Dell, this study is a follow-up to a similar one done in 2014. Since that time, there's been a 30-point drop in the respondents who indicate they are confident or very confident in agency information security. Similarly, there's been a 28-point drop in respondents indicating their confidence in their agency's ability to keep up with evolving cyber threats.
"The federal government appears to still be in the beginning stages of constructing more robust cybersecurity strategies, and respondents cite budget constraints, slow technology acquisition processes, and bureaucratic inertia as the chief barriers to a more holistic agency cybersecurity posture," the report says. "Moving forward, agencies need to focus on tackling institutional obstacles in order to move forward with bolstering organizational cybersecurity."