The National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) encourages government excellence through leadership, business best practices, sound information management, and proven technology policies. Their vision is to serve the public through innovation and efficiency via goals and objectives tuned to government requirements. NASCIO develops and publishes guidelines for Chief Information Officers (CIO) to be successful and ensure public trust, honesty, and fairness, and to support strategic alignment throughout the government.
For 2021, the NASCIO has issued guidance on the Top 10 Priorities for CIOs managing government entities:
- Cloud Solutions
- Legacy Application Modernization and Renovation
- Identity and Access Management
- Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation
- Security Enhancement Tools
- Data Analytics
- Remote Work
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
- Collaboration Technologies
- Customer Server and CRM
These recommendations can be divided into two categories: Information Management and Information Implementation.
What is important to note about the above table is that some recommendations, like Security Enhancement Tools and Collaboration Technologies, reside in both categories. This is because they provide a vehicle for information awareness and also have distinct forward-facing and internal components that must be undertaken to have a successful implementation. In addition, some recommendations overlap, such as with Identity and Access Management (IAM) and Security Enhancement Tools, because a sound identity governance strategy improves operational security throughout the organization.
While the NASCIO recommendations provide high-level guidance, a few technology disciplines, such as privileged access management (PAM) can address the vast majority of these objectives. PAM’s primary goal is to keep your organization safe from accidental or deliberate misuse of privileged credentials and access, regardless of whether the system is being accessed remotely or a user is sitting directly in front of the keyboard and monitor. Privileged access threats are particularly relevant if your organization is undergoing digital transformation and attempting to meet the objectives of the NASCIO.
The larger and more complex your environment’s information technology systems become, the more privileged users you have. Over the last several years, organizations have experienced a large expansion in the number and types of privileged user accounts. These new accounts include employees, contractors, vendors, auditors, and even automated users (robotic processes) utilizing solutions on-premise, in the cloud, and in complex hybrid environments that may include multiple government-to-government connections. In addition, the shift en masse to remote work has resulted in many more sessions that need to be treated as privileged.
Essentially—the bigger the government entity, the bigger the privileged access problem. However, this does not diminish the need for small entities to embrace PAM, but rather that technology professionals have a more difficult time scoping the problem and conducting mitigation exercises at larger scales.
Every government resource is potentially at risk from privileges being used as an attack vector. This fact alone necessitates the need for PAM to be a foundational piece of all the NASCIO recommendations to mitigate relevant risks as you implement new technology for information and business management.
Finally, let’s look at how privileged access management can be applied to each of the two categories we laid out above:
When you consider these benefits of PAM, a threat actor’s ability to gain privileged access, steal information, hijack resources, and navigate undetected is greatly diminished. Mitigating the threats and risks is quantifiable when all activity can be logged, monitored, and audited.
The NASCIO recommendations are a solid foundation for CIO’s to modernize and improve government entities. Successful implementations in the cloud, using modern security and enhanced identity governance can help ensure the privileged attack vectors are not a risk, if implemented using privileged access management best practices and other core security disciplines.
For more information on how BeyondTrust can help government CIOs implement privileged access management as a part of NASCIO initiatives, please contact us today.
Morey J. Haber, Chief Security Officer, BeyondTrust
Morey J. Haber is the Chief Security Officer at BeyondTrust. He has more than 25 years of IT industry experience and has authored three books: Privileged Attack Vectors, Asset Attack Vectors, and Identity Attack Vectors. He is a founding member of the industry group Transparency in Cyber, and in 2020 was elected to the Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA) Executive Advisory Board. Morey currently oversees BeyondTrust security and governance for corporate and cloud based solutions and regularly consults for global periodicals and media. He originally joined BeyondTrust in 2012 as a part of the eEye Digital Security acquisition where he served as a Product Owner and Solutions Engineer since 2004. Prior to eEye, he was Beta Development Manager for Computer Associates, Inc. He began his career as Reliability and Maintainability Engineer for a government contractor building flight and training simulators. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.