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After disclosing a breach initially estimated to affect approximately 4 million federal employees, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) finds itself at the center of a cyber security fiasco that seems to intensify as investigations progress and new information is discovered.
The breach, which has been traced to Chinese hackers, may extend beyond OPM employees, as the office runs a security clearance program containing highly sensitive data on individuals applying for security clearances. Estimates have placed the total number affected as high as 14 million.
As officials undertake cleanup from the incident and investigators trace back the chain of events, one reality is painfully evident: government agencies must get up to speed with their cyber security initiatives to prevent incidents like this one from spiraling out of control. The well-being of millions – and even the safety of our country – are ultimately at stake.
The White House is feeling the pressure to close the gaps in the security infrastructure of the federal government. So U.S. CIO Tony Scott has initiated a 30-day cyber security sprint encouraging agencies to audit, analyze, and improve their cyber defense systems and procedures.
The basic requirement of the cyber security sprint is that each agency must “immediately patch vulnerabilities, accelerate the use of multi-factor authentication and deploy other security protocols provided by the Department of Homeland Security,” and deliver a report to the Office of Management and Budget by the end of the 30-day period.
Additionally, Scott has assembled a sprint team to conduct its own review into the state of the federal government’s cyber security procedures and recommend strategies based on its findings.
While these developments deal specifically with cyber security for federal government infrastructure, this problem is not specific to the public sector. In fact, several private health insurance companies within the Blue Cross Blue Shield organization have been dealing with their own catastrophic breach incidents traced to the same domains and IP addresses of those in the OPM attack.
If your organization’s security posture is lacking, now is the time to follow the White House’s lead and embark on your own cyber security sprint. Even smaller companies can take action to understand their most pressing risks, and implement proactive security programs that rout out incidents before they become disasters.
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