Multinational retail chains aren’t the only victims of massive data breaches. Government agencies make tempting targets, too, as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has now learned, for the second time in a year.
The federal agency responsible for government security breaches and federal employee records, the OPM was first breached by Chinese hackers in July of 2014. This time around, the personal and identifying data of about “4 million current and former federal employees” may have been compromised, including SSNs and job assignment, training, and performance review information.
What’s particularly concerning to Washington is the idea that the hack, which unnamed sources are attributing to China and possibly to the Chinese government, may have been carried out with the intention of gaining access to the names and assignments of people with US security clearances. In addition to being used to identify covert agents, government scientists, and others who would be of interest to a foreign power, the data obtained by the hackers could be leveraged in targeted spear-phishing attacks or other means of infiltrating government networks. The attack was carried out via a zero-day exploit.
Following the July 2014 breach, the OPM has been working to improve its security posture through technologies like data masking and digital redaction and by clamping down on sysadmins’ network access. New monitoring tools helped the agency discover the breach, which was first uncovered in April and only disclosed once the agency knew the scope of the potentially compromised data. Despite these efforts, however, this latest breach has served as another wake-up call to the federal government. Data as sensitive as federal personnel identity and employment information must be protected using the most sophisticated tools available, in as consistent a manner as possible. The threats to that data, after all, don’t come just from run-of-the-mill cybercriminals, but from major world powers.
Cybersecurity is serious business for governments all around the world, especially as agencies seek to streamline operations and cut costs by moving data and applications to the cloud. Unfortunately, recent breaches show that some government agencies aren’t yet adequately secured against the kinds of attacks that make a minefield of the modern threat landscape. Data must be secured from multiple angles, using a variety of technologies such as encryption, tokenization, and cloud malware protection and then extensively logged and actively monitored. In addition, organizations must unify as many of their data protection tools as possible under one cloud security platform for the most consistent visibility and policy enforcement.
Ready to learn more about how CipherCloud can help government agencies achieve data security in the cloud? Read our case study, “Government-Owned Mortgage Backer Moves Loan App Process to the Cloud,” and download our “2015 Report: Key Requirements for Cloud Security” today.