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A Blueprint for Building a Cyber Defense Team

Earlier this year, the Obama administration called on agencies to tighten security and strengthen cyber defense in light of several breaches compromising national security. This call-to-action helped push agencies to reexamine cybersecurity, taking into account things like anti-malware technology, two-factor authentication and privileged user accounts.

Aside from these solutions, there’s also a real need to focus on building defense teams inside government, says Don Maclean, Chief Cybersecurity Technologist at DLT.

“Right now, the role of government is to be a cyber defender, and in order to do that right, agencies need to build capable teams that think like hackers,” Maclean says. “It's how you can begin to identify attacks, stay ahead of them and respond quickly when they do happen.”

Thinking like a hacker means creating a cyber defense team that operates in a 24/7 environment, says Robert Myles, National Practice Manager for Government at Symantec. With the right technology and people in place, teams can work on rotational shifts and stand ready to the threat landscape.

First and foremost, a cyber defense team must understand what they’re up against, Myles says. These teams should be able to quickly and efficiently identify a variety of attacks, including longstanding threats, such as cross-site scripting and SQL injection, as well as common threats today, like Denial of Service, Distributed Denial of Service and spear phishing attacks.

“A cyber defense team takes into consideration threats and applies the appropriate countermeasure to prevent the hacker from getting in,” Myles says. “Detection can be the most difficult part because hackers leverage the normal tool sets of an organization to gain access.”

From an agency-wide perspective, IT leaders should be thinking about security across all work areas, especially when it comes to the development of new systems, software and applications used to power government, Maclean says. Far too often, agencies focus on security compliance efforts, forgetting to engineer with security in mind.

“Engineering functions, too often, are distributed among system administrators and application developers, who may not be security oriented,” Maclean says. “There’s a real deficiency in engineering if security is not built in from the start.”

Really, when you’re thinking about a cyber defense team, you have to be thinking about a strategy that involves everyone, Maclean says.

“You’re very likely to fail if you don’t have a dedicated team approach with the resources needed to draw upon a cyber defense strategy,” he says. “Whether you’re migrating to the cloud, adding new servers, changing administration controls, or tightening security measures, the process has to be an ‘everyone’ approach.”

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