Better Collaboration Tools Need Better Security

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Building new technology on a faulty foundation can be a recipe for disaster.

Workforce collaboration using modern tools and technology can give agencies a vital boost in productivity and morale. Effective collaboration can break down silos and push missions forward. But getting to a positive, modern collaboration environment can be a daunting task for federal agencies, especially with today’s mobile workforce. With an increase in people and even full teams working in remote environments, the amount of collaboration endpoints that need to be secured is growing exponentially.

As agencies modernize with 21st-century collaboration tools, they need to keep one eye on potential threats and vulnerabilities, and take the necessary steps to secure their evolving IT infrastructure.

Securing Your Foundation

Collaboration tools are only as secure as the network they run on. Before introducing applications that add endpoints and new areas of vulnerability, agencies need to have a solid framework in place. 

Building new technology on a faulty foundation can be a recipe for disaster. But if an agency examines its network to prime it for the introduction of modern collaboration tools, it can take advantage of a valuable opportunity to fully evaluate the current environment for security gaps. What solution exists for access control? Is there airtight patching and update protocols in place? 

Agencies should get as granular as possible in their diagnosis to create a better starting point for new technology. With collaboration tools, which are by definition interoperable, an agency could compound vulnerability by opening its network prematurely, even doing so with the goal of better communication. But by securing the environment and not just the tools, an agency can cultivate a multilayered defense—a crucial aspect of any cybersecurity plan. 

Leverage Existing Documentation

Creating a holistic security environment can be daunting, especially since the task of improving processes often falls between the other responsibilities of an agency’s IT team’s day-to-day responsibilities. Triaging the shifting demands of cybersecurity while trying to learn and introduce new solutions can be overwhelming. Luckily, there’s no need to start at square one when it comes to making improvements. There are plenty of resources available to guide agencies and enable them to begin the implementation process from a much stronger position, making an otherwise intimidating task fairly straightforward. 

An impressive force of IT professionals has spent countless manhours creating the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, or FedRAMP, and formulating other certifications that offer a bridge to agencies looking for a path forward. These standards were put into place to make the task of modernization easier, and they intricately detail methods that have been tested and validated. These solutions are industry-approved, widely adopted, and ready to go.

Leveraging these resources puts agencies in a much better starting position than trying to create a new solution themselves every time they need one.

Choosing the Right Partners

The wide-reaching scope of these standards can be both freeing and limiting. While following standards can provide peace of mind in decision-making, it can make the actual work of deploying the solution challenging, especially for smaller teams. 

When an agency is short on internal resources, partnerships can prove invaluable. There are plenty of specialized teams and organizations that can supplement an agency’s staff by helping to implement, train, and/or maintain collaboration tools. Handing off the burden of patching, securing, and remediating collaboration technology means an agency’s team can spend its energy taking advantage of the benefits the new technology provides.

Promises and Threats

Partnerships, joint initiatives, and other forms of collaboration have picked up speed in the federal space. Getting government teams out of silos and into a habit of cross-pollination will result in improved citizen service and a more connected world. 

As agencies continue to adopt new collaboration tools, they should take care to mitigate potential security vulnerabilities, as improper integration can do more harm than good. By establishing proper network security upfront and leveraging industry best practices, agencies can transform their workflows and serve their missions more efficiently than ever before.

Joe Lazzaro is a collaboration practice manager at Force 3.