Making the Case for Cyber Defense Spending in Local Government

Andrea Danti/Shutterstock.com

IT leaders in one Arizona county are working to demonstrate the ROI on cybersecurity investments.

The way David Stevens describes it, local government leaders in Maricopa County, Arizona, didn’t always have an especially favorable view of cybersecurity spending.

A “grand black hole of a money pit.” That’s how it was seen about four years ago, said Stevens, who is the county’s chief information officer. “You had no idea what they were doing. They always wanted money to buy tools,” he added, referring to cybersecurity staff members. “We just thought of them as, sort of, the wizard behind the curtain, that got in the way of business.”

Complex explanations about cybersecurity programs provoked glazed over looks from decision-makers, and Stevens also noted that there was a general impression that some among Maricopa’s cybersecurity team had an inclination to say “no” to technology changes that might create any new cyber-risks, an approach that didn’t always mesh well with the county’s goals.

At the same time, the cyber-threats local governments faced were on the rise, with some of them posing potentially serious consequences and costs.

In more recent years, Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix and has a population of about 4 million people, has made strides toward addressing some of the challenges around cybersecurity that Stevens highlighted.

He and the county’s chief information security officer, Michael Echols, outlined these efforts during a talk on Wednesday at the 2015 FireEye Cyber Defense Summit in Washington, D.C.

Together, Stevens and Echols have worked to develop a strategic plan for cybersecurity in Maricopa County that can be explained and discussed in understandable language, and which is also backed up by metrics that can clearly show how it is effectively reducing risk and liability.

“When they make an investment, they want to understand what that return on investment is going to be,” Echols said, referring to county decision-makers, such as Maricopa’s Board of Supervisors. “What value do they get out of putting money into what I’m proposing.”

“When they see that value, it makes sense” he added. “They want to invest.”

But for those working in the field of government cybersecurity, making a case for new technology based on its return on investment can require a shift in thinking. Echols puts it this way: “We’re IT professionals, and we’ve got to transition to this business perspective.”

When Echols took his post as the chief information security officer in Maricopa County, one of the first things he did was a “capability assessment” to show what the county was capable of when it came to guarding against cyber-risks. Next, he worked to establish some baseline measurements for how those capabilities compared to industry standards.

All of this provided a basis for the strategic plan. Developing the plan helps Stevens when it comes time to make a pitch to county leaders for why taxpayer dollars should be spent on a cybersecurity expense. “That strategic plan gives him something to sell,” Echols said of Stevens. “At the end of the day, he’s really our chief salesman.”

With the plan in place, Stevens pointed out that cybersecurity investments can be framed in terms of broader objectives, such as protecting Maricopa’s “brand,” building trust with people who have shared information with the county, and allowing the government there to deliver better services.

Undergirding the plan is Echols’ “portfolio” approach to the work he and his staff carry out. The cybersecurity portfolio is broken into groups that cover specific areas.

For instance, one group focuses on operations and is responsible for an incident response plan, which involves identifying and responding to incidents such as data breaches. Another group oversees a risk management plan and works to understand the county’s exposure to cyber-threats and to reduce those vulnerabilities. This might mean explaining to departments why their computer systems are prone to attacks, and how to address these issues.

Echols believes it’s important for chief information security officers to fully design a portfolio even if the people and resources aren’t available to support it. This is because it demonstrates there is a “pathway to success.”

Metrics are also important. In Maricopa these include things like trend analyses examining whether the number of attacks and responses are increasing or decreasing. And if Echols is seeking approval for the purchase of new technology to help defend against a certain type of cyber attack, he might look for a way to quantify how many hours of downtime it would save the county, and calculate a dollar amount for how much that downtime would cost in lost productivity.

Cybersecurity metrics do not always need to be tied to slick new purchases. They can be used to measure the effect of more routine upgrades as well.

“If people are migrating off of Windows 2003, and those kind of things, the risk will go down,” Echols said. “You want to be able to demonstrate that in a number.”

Ultimately, Echols explained that he wants to be able to show the board of supervisors and the citizens of Maricopa County that the cybersecurity investments being made are working.

“They should see that their investments are paying off,” he said.

(Image via Andrea Danti/Shutterstock.com)

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.