The shutdown of multiple government agencies had left many with having to furlough employees for an extended period of time, including several within the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency and other departments which employ cybersecurity professionals. Many of these personnel are tasked with helping to monitor networks connected to critical US infrastructure, commerce, and military installations, or to support those that do.
Agencies Stretched Thin
While the shutdown technically only affected those employees deemed nonessential to these operations, there is a worry among observers about the effects on the system as a whole for both the short and long terms. Essential personnel found themselves stretched to handle expanded duties, and research on cybersecurity trends like came to a complete standstill as a vast majority of the staff at those institutions were furloughed.
These conditions created the potential to stall the federal government’s ability to respond to an external attack at a critical juncture. It also might have exacerbated an ongoing labor pool issue within the public sector when it comes to qualified network security professionals, which was already aggravated by a greater dilemma that has not been fully addressed since the last shutdown in 2013. National security agencies have already had a difficult time attracting the number of candidates required and were short-staffed before being forced to furloughed those they already have.
Cybersecurity Labor Shortage
The high demand for these types of personnel has led to many finding better opportunities in the private sector. Agencies such as the NSA instead focused on promoting patriotism and the importance of the mission to attract candidates, but suffered from low morale and high turnover due to the difficulty of the work and the lopsided balance of prospective benefits. When the 2013 shutdown occurred, many employees simply left.
The length of the most recent shutdown is expected to create an even bigger impact in the availability of qualified experts for the US’s cybersecurity initiatives. Even worse, the situation may be exploited by nation-state hackers that have already sought to undermine American networks for wealth or ideological reasons.
Do Not Take Your Network Security for Granted
The lack of a federal security net for US networks will put greater pressure on individual organizations to mind their own digital assets. Even if the shutdown remains resolved, the nation’s cybersecurity institutions will take time to heal and it will pay to be proactive about protecting yourself against cyber threats.
Sign up for a Network Vulnerability Test from SWK to evaluate the state of your security practices and determine if you need to refine your approach.