Survey: Modernizing Legacy IT Actually Leads to More Security Challenges

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Federal IT decision-makers cited incomplete transitions and a lack of familiarity with new systems.

A new report highlights a potential downside to the federal government’s effort to modernize aging IT systems: New systems aren’t failsafe, either.

Almost half of 200 federal IT security decision-makers surveyed by Texas-based IT firm SolarWinds report that IT consolidation and modernization efforts have led to more IT security challenges.

The federal IT professionals attributed the increased security risk to incomplete transitions, complex enterprise management tools and a lack of familiarity with new systems.

Only 20 percent of respondents indicated that modernization efforts actually decreased security challenges, either by replacing outdated software and equipment or simplifying the IT management.

The report indicates the intermittent time between a modernization effort’s beginning and completion is particularly dangerous, as IT personnel juggle new and old environments.

The respondents also put foreign governments on par with negligent insiders as their agency’s greatest IT security threat. Forty-eight percent of government’s IT security personnel surveyed listed foreign adversaries as their top threat, equaling the percentage of those who felt negligent employees posed the greatest security risk.

Still, fears over foreign adversaries gaining access to agency systems jumped 10 percent over last year’s SolarWinds report, while careless or untrained insider worries dropped 5 percent.

This change could be attributable in part to a series of high-profile federal hacks, like the Office of Personnel Management and Internal Revenue Service data breaches, coupled with the government’s rapid “cyber sprint” response. Cybersecurity has been in the Obama administration’s crosshairs since the OPM breach, and the White House followed up the sprint by proposing a big boost to the cyber budget.

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