Nov 16 2023
Data Center

3 Avenues for Securing Government Data Centers

State and local admins should assess identity management, network and digital infrastructure, and continuous monitoring and improvement.

Securing data centers is of prime importance to state and local governments as they seek to modernize their IT infrastructure and take advantage of technology refreshes to support their distributed workforces.

As with any IT effort, one such as this starts with assessing areas where the data center should be modernized to meet current and future demands. Three important avenues are identity and access, the digital infrastructure, and security processes and technologies.

Approaching Data Center Security Through Identity and Access

Identity is at the heart of data center security, yet as agencies implement more cloud capabilities and provide support for a growing group of remote employees, the attack surface expands. Agencies control access to resources through digital identities — email addresses, login credentials, PINs and more — by defining what internal and external resources users are authorized to access.

Unfortunately, username/password combinations are common, and they can be the weakest link in security. Many people reuse the same combination for multiple sites, so if one is hacked, all are vulnerable. In addition, users can easily fall victim to phishing attacks and disclose their credentials, leaving the door open to bad actors.

Click the banner to learn how state and local agencies can optimize their data centers.

Take a hard look at identity and access management solutions for strong protection. For example, the ForgeRock Identity Platform provides passwordless authentication via biometrics or private key cryptography, and the ForgeRock Identity Gateway bridges complex legacy systems and processes as well as new web applications and connected devices. Ensure IAM consistently enforces authorization across new and legacy apps, APIs and microservices.

Other important aspects of IAM are zero trust (to ensure that all users are authenticated and authorized prior to being given access to agency systems and resources) and two-factor authentication to add a layer of authentication and further bolster identity management. Technologies such as intrusion prevention and detection systems, firewalls and next-generation firewalls can help dictate who is allowed access to data center resources. Make sure government technologies can support the number of remote users anticipated in the future.

READ MORE: Here are three considerations when adopting hyperconverged infrastructure.

How to Modernize Your Agency's Network and Digital Infrastructure

Reputable vendors will have recommendations for modernizing your network. While several of the ones listed below will be well known to IT and security experts at government agencies, we will highlight some of the more important ones and those that might be overlooked.

Start by assessing network capacity: Does it provide the speed and reliability required for the distributed workforce of today and tomorrow? Double-check redundancy and failover mechanisms to ensure users have uninterrupted connectivity.

Fortinet recommends virtualization, among several other technologies and measures. The process of creating virtual servers from physical servers not only increases agility and flexibility, it can also effectively isolate applications from one another on the network, a measure that can protect data from being shared among across them or prevent the spread of malware or viruses that may infect other parts of the network. Virtualization helps the digital infrastructure to scale and enables administrators to manage the data center security and workflows remotely.

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Checkpoint highly recommends keeping critical systems updated with the latest security patches, which can unfortunately be a daunting task due to limited resources and time. Look to tools such as SolarWinds Patch Manager to automate patching and software updates and to optimize the operating performance of systems. 

Checkpoint also recommends continuously assessing the network for the addition of new or unknown Internet of Things devices or wireless access points.

Cisco says to segment networks to reduce the scope of an attack, limiting the ability of an attacker to move laterally across the data center. This is especially important when agencies are not able to patch all systems as quickly as they would like. Segmentation can reduce the risk of an unpatched vulnerability being exploited before it can be patched and put into production.

For legacy systems, segmentation is critical to protect resources that don't receive maintenance releases or patch updates.

EXPLORE: Consider these best practices for data center protection.

Look to Monitoring and Continuous Improvement

Check 24/7 monitoring solutions for the data center and network. These may include security information and event management systems such as IBM Security QRadar, as well as intrusion detection systems and intrusion prevention systems such as the capabilities included in Juniper Networks’ Junos OS.

Update procedures to monitor log files and respond to alerts. Review incident response plans to ensure they are up to date and adequate for an expanded, remote workforce.

Establish a culture of continuous improvement by regularly assessing and updating security measures to adapt to changing requirements. An important aspect of continuous improvement is to ensure that remote employees are trained in any new technology and security protocols. Also check that cybersecurity awareness and training modules are updated and allow for frequent, timely training.

Well-known vendors such as KnowBe4 provide up-to-date training on emerging phishing attacks and the latest cyberthreats. Remember that agency users, both local and remote, are an important front line against cyberthreats.

As state and local governments cope with the increasing demands of a remote workforce and support a growing citizenry, it is important to follow these steps to help identify and guide a technology refresh that supports growing requirements. As new technologies are developed, stay on top of them and adopt as needed. Just as important, make teams aware of evolving security threats now and in the future.

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