recommended reading

Potential Ripples of Stretched Cyber Support During Shutdown

With electronic infrastructure still up and running despite the government shutdown, the lack of staff support in information security shops is likely affecting the government’s ability to respond to cyber threats and attacks and creating potential ripple effects for cybersecurity going forward.

“What I would expect is that, by and large, just like the other services, information security is vastly undersupported, and that means that the exceptional circumstances are a problem,” said Tim Erlin, director of IT security and risk strategy at security software firm Tripwire. “When there’s an alarm or alert, the number of people available to investigate and deal with the consequences has been drastically reduced. It’s not that nobody will see the alarm; it’s that the response will be limited.”

The shutdown situation also poses threats similar to those on holidays, weekends and late nights when IT staff are operating with skeleton crews, said Lamar Bailey, Tripwire’s director of security research and development. Hostile nation states may look to exploit the shutdown as much as possible while federal agencies are distracted, he said.

“If a zero day came out today, it would be hard for government to respond,” Bailey said. “And next week, if the [shutdown] is still going on, there’s going to be a skeleton crew who can start rolling out the patches.”

There also is the ripple effect that having federal employees and contractors away from their jobs will mean that they will have a backlog of work when they return in order to return systems to a stable state. “This creates a backlog and distracts people from securing the systems,” Erlin said.

Another area of concern is that while many furloughed federal workers have shut down their desks and turned in their phones, many of them have taken their laptops home with them. “If this lasts for any amount of time and you’re not using the laptop for work, there’s a chance for the laptop to go missing,” Bailey said. “That data leakage opportunity exists as this goes longer.”

It’s also questionable whether the system to report a missing piece of hardware is considered an essential service, Erlin added. “We may find that data that’s compromised doesn’t actually surface until post-shutdown when someone actually manages to read that report that a laptop was stolen,” he said. “That’s an example of an essential service being under-supported rather than nonexistent.” 


Get the Nextgov iPhone app to keep up with government technology news.

Threatwatch Alert

Stolen laptop

3.7M Hong Kong Voters' Personal Data Stolen

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.