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In Most Hacks, ‘the Common Denominator' is People


Congress asked industry tech leaders to offer insights for how the government might reduce the number of data breaches and shore up its cybersecurity posture.

Predictably, much of the discussion centered on tech leaders encouraging government to invest more money in cybersecurity, but for cash-strapped agencies, that may not be an option. Private sector companies spend more – sometimes as much as three times more, according to John Wood, chief executive officer of Telos Corporation – on cybersecurity than their public sector counterparts.

That’s a scary thought, but here’s another: The latest and greatest technology means absolutely nothing if your workforce isn’t properly trained and competent regarding the Internet.

“The overwhelming common denominator was people,” Wood said, speaking about a number of large-scale data breaches in retailers like Target and Neiman Marcus as well as the Office of Personnel Management hack that exposed personal information on more than 21 million past, current and prospective employees.

“Nearly all of these breaches could have been avoided,” Wood added.

Wood submitted a makeshift blueprint in his testimony for federal agencies to shore up their systems similar to policy efforts called for by U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott in the “cybersecurity sprint.” They include establishing and enforcing cybersecurity policies and procedures, effective password management, proper training and routine patching and up-to-date endpoint solutions.

These common-sense efforts are cheap and promote improved cybersecurity posture. Had OPM followed them, perhaps we all wouldn’t be talking about it.

“At the risk of being a Monday-morning quarterback, in retrospect, had OPM been using two-factor authentications, encryption rest, and had they had log files, we would have a much different situation than perhaps we ended up having,” Wood said.

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