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Symantec's Jim Russell: Get ready for tougher FISMA

Symantec's Jim Russell: Get ready for tougher FISMA - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Symantec's Jim Russell
Symantec's Jim Russell

Through the years, Symantec's Jim Russell has offered this blunt assessment of FISMA: It lacks “teeth.“ The current law's inability to hold agencies accountable for data breaches, plus staff and budgetary issues, have driven inaction by many smaller agencies. Forty-two percent of them don't even have dedicated IT staff. But the tide is turning. More frequent cybersecurity breaches, as well as the Obama administration's reliance on a more open “Blackberry PDA-device world,“ are contributing to increased IT budgets and staff. A stronger version of FISMA is likely to follow. “FISMA will get more teeth and will be enforced much more stringently,“ predicts Russell, vice president of public sector at Symantec. In advance of that day, Russell recently offered ExecutiveBiz his take on how you can help smaller agencies develop a stronger cybersecurity posture “” sooner rather than later.

1.) Identify each endpoint in the agency environment.
Just a few years ago, an endpoint was a PC or laptop. No longer. These days, endpoints include devices such as Blackberries and cell phones. That's why it's so crucial to ask, “What's the environment we're trying to protect?'“ “Understanding what's out there as far as hardware as well as software is a challenge,“ says Russell. “What we've found with some of the smaller agencies “” and the actual work with contractors “” is that although a comprehensive security strategy may be in place, points of vulnerability will always exist “¦ which means protecting information is just as important as protecting endpoints.“ In Symantec's case, its acquisition of Vontu a few years ago now affords the company the ability to lock down personally identifiable information and engage in data loss prevention. “That's what we want to see in a perfect cybersecurity world “” prevention,“ says Russell.

2.) Stay informed of the security landscape. “Staying informed is actually pretty easy as long as you have time to read reports on a regular basis,“ says Russell. Along with Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report, a number of companies routinely put out reports that offer different ways of monitoring the threats: everything from internet traffic to what goes through military and unclassified networks. Also, the Department of Homeland Security's US-CERT website provides links to various online services and reports.

3.) Use layered security. “Employ defense in-depth strategies including the deployment of antivirus software, firewalls, and security patch updates,“ says Russell. “Attackers today are increasingly sophisticated and organized,“ he adds, “smaller agencies need to augment these traditional antivirus solutions today with easy-to-use, all-in-one suites that protect critical business assets.“

4.) Back-up data. “No matter how much you buy or implement, you're not going to have a completely 100 percent “˜safe security' solution,“ says Russell. “That's why you need to back-up your data “¦ [for example] say that someone is able to penetrate or compromise it, you must have a way to retrieve your data or, if need be, to close down things so that you can address the needs and get a separate copy of your data.“

How are you helping smaller agencies strengthen cybersecurity? Share your comments here.

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