SLED Agencies: Keep an Eye on These Cybersecurity Trends

For many things it’s never too late to improve how your business operates. When it comes to cybersecurity, however, there IS such a thing as “too late.” No one—least of all government agencies—wants to be the next target of a major ransomware or cyberattack. 

Malicious actors see schools and local government agencies as easy targets for several reasons. For starters, about a third of all local governments cannot identify when they’re under attack. Of those that can, a third of them report getting attacked on an hourly basis. Meanwhile, half of these agencies report attacks as a daily occurrence. 

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This October, do your part to protect your workplace—and national security. Take the following risks into consideration and strengthen your defenses, starting with your device hardware.

1. Leaky Endpoint Security Due to Remote Work

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer than a quarter of government employees worked remotely for at least one day per week. During 2020, however, that figure rose to 74%. At its peak, over half of all government employees worked remotely every day. 

For many local government employees, remote work is here to stay. This is bad news for your agency’s risk of ransomware attacks.

As more government employees and teachers work remotely, this increases the number of endpoints that must be protected. Unfortunately, most agencies take a haphazard or hands-off approach to remote endpoint management, which severely jeopardizes their entire organization’s security.

Fortunately, by prioritizing endpoint security at the hardware level, you can maintain a hybrid office model while keeping your work and data protected.

2. External Threats Breaching Your Internal Firewall Due to Hybrid Work

Although many agencies are already aware of the risk posed by remote endpoints, they still fail to grasp the major risk posed by hybrid work environments. The World Economic Forum asserts that 95% of 2021 cybersecurity incidents were caused by human error. This is an issue for the hybrid workforce because traditional security methods no longer apply, and more responsibility falls on the individual to avert risks.

Every time an endpoint re-enters your internal network, this creates a new gateway for external threats to enter your system. With lateral movement techniques, a hacker can move from an employee’s device at home to your central network, and from there access your most sensitive information. It’s a frightening thought that only 18 states have a cybersecurity budget, and many government employees continue to work in hybrid environments.

Once again, this is why a proactive cybersecurity defense must start with best-in-class hardware protection deployed across your entire network of devices.

3. General Increase in Workplace Electronic Communication and Phishing

Years ago, employees shared information, documents, and even memes via fax machines and printed materials. Today, these same documents are transferred electronically through different platforms and devices

If you had to, could you list every app and communication channel your employees use on their devices? Many apps used for work, such as Slack, regularly encourage the use of third-party integrations, APIs, bots, and other tools, most of which are far from 100% secure. Of course, this multiplies your risk of malware and ransomware entering your internal network. 

According to Cisco, Slack, Telegram, and Discord are trending targets for hackers looking to deliver Remote Access Trojans (RATs), malware, and ransomware because, as common workplace collaboration tools, these apps are not blocked by workplace firewalls. And harkening back to user error, phishing and social engineering attacks grow more sophisticated by the hour.

Luckily, you can tighten up your network from the device up with comprehensive security. Today’s hardware-level security systems have revolutionized user credentialing and offer a more secure way to isolate threats while they prevent phishing and social engineering attacks across all platforms.

4. Outdated and Easy-to-Hack Legacy Systems

It’s no secret that local government agencies tend to use end-of-life hardware and legacy software. Hackers are aware of this as well. This also means that hackers are already aware of all your system’s exploits, big and small. 

To make matters worse, due to the nature of legacy and end-of-life products, important things like security patches, human tech support, and the ability to integrate with modern security products are nearly non-existent in local government offices that run such systems.

Legacy and end-of-life products may be saving money in the short run, but could be enormously expensive in the long run when you consider the cost of a potential ransomware attack. In 2020, University of California, San Francisco ended up paying $1.14 million to get their data back. To make matters worse, 74% of all ransomware attacks on higher education are successful. 

By upgrading your system to best-in-class security products and devices, you may even save money long-term if it prevents even one ransomware attack. Plus, DaaS and cutting-edge security services are easy to factor into your monthly budget thanks to transparent pricing.

5. Lack of Hardware Protection Across All Devices

While often overlooked, it’s extremely easy and common to breach hardware along with the entire system and network. 

All it takes is a serial number to track down critical unique details about your device’s hardware—a piece of information extremely easy to find if an attacker figures out where you purchased your devices.

Government agencies and educators must do everything they can to prevent phishing and social engineering attacks. Simple questions about your hardware or operating system might seem harmless to you, but they are invaluable to hackers who will use the information to exploit common vulnerabilities in your system and gain control of your device at the hardware level. 

Hardware-level breaches are extremely persistent because they target your device’s BIOS, firmware, drivers, CPU, and other critical components. Luckily, you can mitigate the risks and prevent a cyberattack like these by protecting your system at the hardware level.

6. Neglected Printer and Local Network Security

Open your device’s list of available WiFi connections right now, and there’s a good chance you’ll find at least one unprotected printer connection. This creates a major—and extremely public—weak point for government agencies and offices because it allows anyone to access information about your internal network.

In fact, one of the biggest cyber scandals of 2021 was the Windows PrintNightmare in which hackers exploited printer spool vulnerabilities to remotely infect systems with ransomware and took over entire networks by manipulating user credentials. 

Your best solution is to take a comprehensive approach to securing every device across your network. Managed print services are backed by the latest security software—down to the hardware level—along with ongoing managed security at the network level.

Protect Your System from the Ground Up

Effective cybersecurity starts with your hardware. Fortunately, HP Wolf Security and HP Sure Click have you covered with comprehensive endpoint protection starting at the device hardware level.

HP’s innovative technology doesn’t just guard your hardware; it stops social engineering, phishing, and external ransomware attacks through hardware-enforced threat isolation and cloud-based software management. 

ABM Federal delivers only the best-in-class, and it doesn’t get better than HP Wolf Security. HP Wolf Security makes your system impenetrable to malware, thanks to CPU-enforced threat containment. HP Sure Click utilizes micro-virtual machine technology to isolate every attachment, email, and click to prevent malware and ransomware from entering your system.

From credential protection in remote environments to AI-powered next-generation threat detection, HP Wolf Security is the BIC for mitigating threats across all endpoints in your remote or hybrid workforce. 

But even BIC cybersecurity tools and software are only effective when deployed with an appropriate strategy. That’s where we come in, with DaaS and MPS. We’ll apply our expertise in working with agencies and offices just like yours to help you develop, implement, and maintain a proactive cybersecurity strategy at the device level. 

We believe cybersecurity shouldn’t break the bank. That’s why we’re happy to offer BIC products and services at predictable costs so you can easily factor ongoing protection into your monthly budget while you avoid strain on your existing IT department.

Contact our team today to get the essential cybersecurity support that your agency needs.

Simplify and Secure Your Federal Office IT

ABM Federal, an HP Platinum Partner, provides HP Security Solutions to government agencies. With over 40 years of experience, an excellent past performance record, and Best In Class (BIC) contracts, ABM Federal offers a variety of innovative products and services to simplify and enhance your federal office IT.

Contact us at (800) 522-9226 to learn more.

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