Why Basic Cybersecurity Training Is Essential To Federal Workforce Development

The federal government defends itself against tens of thousands of cyberattacks each day. These attacks range from straightforward ones, like phishing emails meant to deceive an unsuspecting federal employee, to more complex ones that target the nation’s most valuable data assets.

Considering how much more information is moving online, safeguarding federal institutions from cyberattacks is complex but highly crucial. The federal government’s departments house virtually every type of information, including information relating to national security, financial data, and the confidential data of every individual in the country. In short, hackers can obtain a wealth of sensitive information from the government.

Ransomware attacks affect 30 percent of federal agencies and account for 62 percent of all malware occurrences that impact government organizations.

Besides ransomware attacks, data breaches are one of the biggest cybersecurity threats faced by the federal government. The SolarWinds hack, one of the greatest cyberattacks of the twenty-first century, perfectly epitomizes this.

A prominent software provider with headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, SolarWinds offers system management solutions for network and infrastructure surveillance as well as other technical services to millions of businesses worldwide. One of the company’s offerings is the Orion IT performance monitoring solution.

SolarWinds Orion has unrestricted access to IT resources as an IT monitoring solution in order to collect log and system activity data. SolarWinds became a valuable and alluring target because of its privileged location and extensive deployment.

The SolarWinds hack was a big deal since it wasn’t just one company that was compromised; instead, it was the catalyst for a much bigger supply chain issue that impacted thousands of organizations, notably the US government.

The break in the supply chain of the SolarWinds Orion system is frequently referred to as the SolarWinds hack.

When SolarWinds unintentionally distributed the backdoor virus as an upgrade to the Orion software, the attack affected the data, networks, and computers of thousands of people, including employees of federal agencies.

State and municipal governments are frequently attacked, but the SolarWinds incident and its effects revealed the federal government’s cybersecurity flaws. In 2019, the bulk of cyberattacks in the US targeted towns, cities, and counties, accounting for around two-thirds of the country’s widely known ransomware attacks.

At least 113 national, state, and municipal agencies were affected by ransomware attacks in 2020, at a value of $915 million, according to estimates. The numbers show that ransomware will be around for some time and that attackers will continue to attack all levels of government entities.

Government entities must close the gap in knowledge around ransomware through practical federal employee training in detection and recovery as ransomware attacks become increasingly complex.

However, government agencies need to invest time and money to accomplish this. According to an IBM study, only 38 percent of government employees have proper training in ransomware prevention. It is time for a change.

What Problem Can Basic Cybersecurity Training For Federal Employees Solve?

Government organizations with obsolete IT infrastructure make easy targets for malware infections or ransomware attacks. Consequently, hackers will target unprepared government employees with stolen credentials, email phishing scams, or malware to infiltrate their systems, steal sensitive and valuable government data, or seize vital systems required for service delivery and operations.

Any government employee without the proper training is susceptible to the simple but disastrous error of clicking on a phony email or website link. Because of this, government workers must understand how to avoid cyberattacks properly and are adequately updated about and involved in the subject.

Even though most government institutions try to educate their federal employees about cybersecurity, they often need to meet expectations. It’s about time every government entity took cybersecurity awareness training seriously in light of the constantly shifting risk landscape brought on by the ongoing pandemic and the pervasive remote working practice.

What Is Cybersecurity Awareness Training and Why do Federal Employees need it?

To lower the risk of cyberattacks and instill a robust cybersecurity culture inside a government agency, it is essential to train government employees on the existing cyber threat environment. Employee education is a continual process that covers a variety of subjects and procedures, such as:

  • Basic online protection
  • Attack simulations
  • Threats from social engineering
  • Threat identification and response
  • Evaluating security regulations and policies
  • Individual obligations for corporate

Here are five reasons government agencies need to invest in cybersecurity awareness training for their employees.

Keep Employees Up-to-Date as the Threat Landscape Changes

Awareness is crucial in the fight against cybercrime, primarily because threat actors are increasingly focused on human shortcomings to set up social engineering attacks. For instance, phishing attacks increased dramatically in 2020 and are not slowing down anytime soon.

Recent Breach Incidents Affecting State and Local Administrations

Like private sector companies, state and local governments are equally impacted by cybercrime. Recent attacks have affected government agencies and their constituents, causing considerable delays in regular operations.

As per Government Technology, an end-of-May cyberattack affected St. Clair County, Illinois, government operations for weeks. The findings claim that the attack prohibited locals from accessing court information or paying taxes electronically. Grief, a ransomware organization, claimed responsibility for the incident.

The New Work Model

There are more considerations to consider while securing remote employees than on-site federal employees. Most government workers now work from home using their internet service and devices, so they are more susceptible than ever.

The following elements should be taken into account:

  • Access to files
  • How frequently are backups performed
  • Capability for sharing data
  • How workers should notify the IT team in the event of a problem

Achieve Compliance

Most data security legislation, protocols, and guidelines, including FISMA, HIPPA, PCI DSS, and GDPR, call for regular cybersecurity awareness training. Workers dealing with sensitive information must demonstrate that they have taken the necessary cybersecurity training to establish and maintain conformity with these laws.

Foster a Culture of Security Awareness

Cybersecurity training is not only for internal IT personnel. Government departments should adopt shared cybersecurity best practices as a result. Encouraging everyone to make informed decisions per the agency’s security regulations contributes to developing a strong culture.

The nearest you can come to a human firewall is to inculcate in each worker a self-driven cybersecurity obligation.

What Professional Training in Cybersecurity Awareness for Federal Employees Must Include

Here are a few issues with cyber security that governments must address and should train federal employees on.

Using Cloud-Based Applications

Governments are far more likely to experience a ransomware attack if they employ on-site servers to hold data. It’s because they don’t have data backed up in the cloud and are much simpler to break into. Change to user-friendly cloud-based government software solutions and educate your staff on how to utilize them right away to keep your data safe and retrievable.

Email Training

Ensure that your public email software is safe and that employees only do government business using their work emails.

Also, it’s incredible how many individuals still use easy-to-guess words as their passwords. Federal employees should be trained to use strong passwords, including numbers, capital letters, and symbols, to stop attackers from deciphering weak passwords.

Phishing Scams

Phishing is the practice of tricking people into clicking dubious website links to steal their personal information. Here are a few classic strategies employed by hackers:

  • Strange emails that make general “suspicious activity” mentions
  • Impersonating email accounts that make the sender seem legitimate but, upon closer scrutiny, have weird endings. For instance, mayor@cityofseattle.in (.in stands for India).
  • Links to vital “reports” or paperwork
  • Phony invoices
  • Free promotional codes for popular items
  • Requesting one’s financial or personal data
  • Attackers who utilize spear-phishing specifically target particular people or profiles as they may either be lower profile victims with less security awareness training and so more susceptible, like a receptionist, or higher profile victims with more access privileges, like a mayor or town administrator.


Hackers will occasionally entice victims into downloading free music or movies to infect a machine with malware. Teach government workers not to click on dubious websites or download files.

Using Personal Devices

Ensure that staff is not conducting official business on their phones or laptops. Personal work pcs for government employees that are safe and routinely upgraded with security updates should be provided.

Responding to Data Breach

A quick response is essential following a cyberattack to prevent a significant breach. Therefore, it is vital to train federal employees to respond immediately after a cyberattack or data breach has occurred.

Ensure that there is constant discussion about cyber security within your government agency and that employees feel free to ask questions about it; it will further encourage employees to make inquiries regarding cyber security.

Investing in Basic Cybersecurity Training for Federal Employees Will Pay Off

Regardless of their size, government organizations can only expect to strengthen their cybersecurity capabilities gradually. Government organizations must maintain vigilance and be proactive in updating their cybersecurity, or they risk falling victim to a cyberattack or information breach that will have catastrophic financial repercussions.

Government organizations recognizing the value of enhancing their cybersecurity should collaborate with knowledgeable cybersecurity experts to implement a multifaceted cybersecurity strategy protecting their sensitive data. But, more importantly, they should keep their employees updated with the current cybersecurity challenges through professional training in cybersecurity.

Neglecting professional training in cybersecurity could have serious financial repercussions that far surpass the expense of training. Remember that other unquantifiable effects, including downtime and reduced trust, might result from data breaches.

When investing in security hardware, services, and software, remember to set aside enough funds in your IT budget for staff training. It’s a quick and low-cost way to patch up serious security gaps in your company.

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Leadership & Management



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