HR and IT: A Partnership Poised to Protect Federal Cyber Systems

Omelchenko/Shutterstock.com

By partnering with IT, HR departments will assemble the must-have tech and people building blocks required to cover all essential areas.

Sudeep Dharan is chief technology officer at Acendre.

If the 2015 Office of Personnel Management breach has taught us anything, it’s hackers love to target federal HR departments—with a treasure trove of Social Security numbers, payroll data, email addresses and employee identification information contained within their systems.

Given the extent of damage an adversary can do with all of this, HR leaders and their teams must take a proactive approach in safeguarding their network, systems and devices—one that goes far beyond acquiring “set it and forget it” firewalls and other traditional cybersecurity tools.

Modern hacking methodologies grow more creative and sophisticated by the day. Not only do they continue to advance rapidly from a technology perspective, but they are increasingly mastering the human part of the equation too, i.e., the ability to manipulate well-meaning federal employees into compromising their agencies through phishing scams and other schemes.

Thus, a proactive approach positions HR to stay one step ahead of attackers. But it requires federal HR organizations to reach out to the IT department, to form a partnership to address both the technological and human-focused needs here. With an HR/IT partnership taking hold, agencies can pursue the following, key areas:

Security Verifications.

HR and IT should work together to ensure all federal personnel systems pass rigorous security verifications. Those subject to Federal Information Security Management Act and Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program standards are subject to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s SP 800-53 security controls.

HR’s partnership with IT should safeguard the entire HR ecosystem, including the agency’s recruitment, onboarding, performance and learning initiatives. There should be ongoing scrutiny and validation your agency continues to comply with the latest security and privacy regulations, not just via a one-time event or point in time.

A Holistic Security Program 

Data assurance does not begin and end with a certified stamp of approval from a verification authority. Through the IT partnership, HR must develop a holistic, strategic, enterprisewide security program. The program should provide answers to technology questions (“Are our solutions up to date?” “Will they enable us to effectively react in real-time to new threats?”) and human ones (“Do our users know what to do – and what not to do – when they encounter a potential phishing scam?” “Are we training them about these threats on an ongoing basis?”)

Overlooking the human element will likely prove disastrous, as ill-conceived behaviors on the part of employees (or contractual hires) account for one-quarter of data breaches, according to research from the Ponemon Institute. These errors create significant financial burdens, specifically $133 for every compromised record.

In cultivating a “cybersecurity culture” throughout the federal workforce, HR and IT teams train employees about best practices which apply to the daily use of computing devices. The teams illustrate to these staffers a commitment to information assurance does not have to arrive at a cost to productivity, that the implementation of effective measures and practices aren’t onerous intrusions that will prompt staffers to seek workarounds.

As indicated, ongoing education makes a tremendous difference here, with the Ponemon research revealing training reduces the cost of every compromised record by $9.

Risk Assessments

 Via thorough, regular risk assessments, HR and IT partnership members pinpoint where your agency’s most critical data is stored, and what weaknesses could expose it. They also come up with risk/reward formulas which quantify exactly how much risk is acceptable, to strike the right balance between strong security controls and the need for organizational productivity. (It’s not realistic, after all, to impose a lock-everything-down series of policies, especially if the restrictions arrive at the expense of mission-benefiting performance.)

It’s clear agencies have to do better in assessing risk in a continuous and strategic manner: Less than one-half of executives say existing risk exposures are considered “mostly” or “extensively” within their organization when evaluating new initiatives, and just 25 percent indicate their organization has put in place a complete, formal enterprise risk management process, according to research from the Enterprise Risk Management Initiative at the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University.

More than one-third conduct no formal assessments of emerging strategic, market or industry risks. Despite the lack of activity here, 57 percent of the surveyed executives believe the volume and complexity of risk has changed “extensively” or “mostly” in the last five years, according to the ERM findings.

We live in a different world today, one which is defined by escalating attack-landscape intricacies and changes. We don’t know when the next OPM or OPM-like attack is coming. Subsequently, data protection is no longer a one-off event. Nor is it a solo effort.

By partnering with IT, HR departments will assemble the must-have tech and people building blocks required to cover all essential areas. Adversaries are smart enough to distinguish proactive enterprises from passive ones. When they recognize HR has established a highly vigilant, holistic program—supported by a thriving cybersecurity workforce culture—to guard the data jewels, these cyber criminals will quickly move on to another treasure trove.

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.