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Government IT leaders feeling more secure

Government IT leaders feeling more secure
Government IT leaders feeling more secure 

By Grant Gross
November 13, 2006
IDG News Service

More than half of IT leaders in the U.S. government are more confident 
about their agencies' cybersecurity capabilities than they were two 
years ago, according to a survey released Monday. However, the August 
phone survey of 200 U.S. government IT decision-makers also found that 
they are putting more time into cybersecurity.

Despite a handful of high-profile government breaches this year, 58% of 
those surveyed believe their agencies are more secure, while just 12% 
feel less secure, according to the survey by Cisco Systems Inc. The 
largest breach was the May 3 theft of a Department of Veterans Affairs 
laptop and hard drive containing the personal information of 26.5 
million military veterans. The hardware was recovered in late June.

Sixty-three percent of respondents said they are spending more time on 
security issues than they were two years ago. "More folks are working at 
security and information assurance, often not as full-time jobs but as 
part of their jobs," said Daniel Kent, director of systems engineering, 
for Cisco's U.S. federal sales organization.

Funding concerns were identified by 67% of respondents as the top 
impediment to improving cybersecurity. Half of all respondents 
identified their existing security architectures and a lack of standards 
as major impediments, with just under half identifying a lack of 
management support and a lack of experienced staff as major barriers to 

The problem with existing security architectures seems to be a lack of 
cohesiveness, Kent said. Agencies have been working on creating a 
"defense in depth" by buying products that fix targeted security 
problems, but respondents don't see how these piecemeal systems fit 
together, he said.

Survey respondents represented more than 45 U.S. agencies and included 
agency chief information officers, program managers, IT directors and 
managers, and line of business managers. All respondents had some level 
of responsibility for decision-making for network security.

Asked which security components were most important, 92% of respondents 
identified network firewalls, and 92% identified server and workstation 
security. Eighty-nine percent identified network intrusion detection 
technology, while 78% identified e-mail and messaging security. 
Seventy-eight percent also identified incident response capability, 
while 74% picked security audits.

Asked what security concerns keep them up at night, 46% said reduced 
operations because of security breaches, and 40% said a loss of employee 
or customer privacy due to data breaches. Another 39% said security 
concerns associated with remote or mobile workers.

Forty-eight percent said they were confident that automated software 
tools will address their agencies' security issues in the future, while 
17% said they were not confident. Automated tools will allow IT workers 
to "do more with less," Kent said.

Market Connections Inc. conducted the survey, a follow-up to a November 
2005 survey on government cybersecurity commissioned by Cisco.

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