Building a cyber-resilient public sector

This year, the UK Treasury advertised a Head of Cyber Security position at £50,000 per annum, and it stirred up a debate on the importance of cyber security in the public sector.

While the compensation offered for this critical role may be inadequate, it highlights a more pressing issue— the financial pressures faced by the UK government and most importantly the disregard for security staff wellbeing. In fact, our 2023 Cyber Resilience Report found that 1 in 5 security leaders are losing sleep over security concerns, averaging just 5.4hrs of sleep a night. This drops to just 5.2hrs in the public sector.

The growing importance of cyber-resilience

Government institutions hold massive amounts of sensitive data, from financial records to personal information, making them prime targets for cybercriminals. As cyber threats become more advanced and sophisticated, the public sector must adapt to protect their digital assets effectively. Security teams know this, and are feeling the stress of it. 30% of security leaders feel unable to cope following prolonged periods of work-related stress and burn out.

A growing trend amongst the private sector is to adopt a consolidated approach, with 60% now pursuing this strategy. The public sector is lagging behind, and missing out on some key benefits. Consolidation, when used as part of an autonomous integrated security platform has the potential to change the game for public sector organisations.

Cost-effectiveness

In recent Gartner research, only 29% of organisations said they consider reduced spending on licensing to be the primary benefit of vendor consolidation. It was the lowest ranked benefit.

However, public sector organisations are facing more financial pressures than ever – which means cost savings need to be made. Partnering with the right security vendor can help keep those monthly bills low. Often, with larger security providers there is a premium on features that most small-medium sized organisations don’t need. Make sure to look at the features, and go for a security vendor that fits your requirements.

There are more cost-savings that come with consolidation. In the public sector, there’s a need to stay focused on reducing complexity and increasing efficiency across the board – something consolidation does very well. Cost savings here may not come directly off the license budget, but when the team is working better, faster, and the organisation is achieving better security with less back-end management and admin workload, then savings come in other ways.

Improved threat detection and response

The monthly bill is important, but it also can’t be the sole deciding factor in whether or not to pursue consolidation. Put simply, the more siloed point products you deploy, the greater the chance you’ll end up with blind spots and end up paying a ransom.

By implementing consolidating vendors and implementing an integrated approach, security teams can gain a holistic view of their security systems and achieve tighter integration between previously disconnected security products, ultimately improving their threat detection and response efficiency.

An autonomous integrated security platform can quickly identify and respond to potential threats by using advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. With automated threat detection and response, public sector organisations can reduce the time it takes to mitigate cyber-attacks, minimising the potential damage caused by security breaches.

It’s no surprise that an automated response to cyber threats topped the cybersecurity wish list for 2023, with 52% of public sector organisation ranking it as number one.

Keeping data safe in the cloud

The death of the traditional perimeter and the ubiquity of cloud-first systems mean that cyber threats can come from anywhere. And as public sector organisations continue to migrate their systems to the cloud, ensuring data security becomes increasingly crucial.

It’s worrying then that only 23% of public sector organisations have complete discovery and visibility into all cloud application use. Just using block/allow web security rules may be allowing data to leak through the gaps.

An integrated cloud security platform can offer centralised data protection across multiple cloud environments, safeguarding sensitive information from unauthorised access and potential data breaches. Platforms like Censornet’s integrate DLP across their webemail and cloud security so you know there are zero gaps.

Simplified compliance and reporting

Public sector organisations must comply with various regulations and standards to protect sensitive data. Even if the report process is simple for each point product, the average public sector organisation has 22 different security products. The time creating each report quickly adds up.

An integrated security platform can simplify the compliance process by automating data governance, risk management, and reporting tasks, reducing the burden on already stretched teams.

Future-proofing your security

As the digital landscape evolves, so do cyber threats. An autonomous cloud platform offers the flexibility and scalability needed for public sector organisations to stay ahead of emerging threats. By continually adapting to new security challenges, these platforms ensure that the organisations using them remain protected in the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape.

Consolidation also paves the way for future advances in cybersecurity, like XDR or Zero Trust. Most large organisations are already adopting ZTNA. However, for companies in the public sector with lean security teams, zero-trust can seem like a challenging policy to enforce.

But it doesn’t have to be.

The key is to adopt a platform that automatically reviews access requests 24/7 and deploys intelligent data analysis to determine context-based approvals at lightning speed. This is hugely powerful for lean security teams.

Most XDR solutions are focused on integrating and simplifying multiple security solutions used by large global enterprises. But the public sector struggle with a very different reality. They may not have sufficient controls in the first place. They often have limited budgets rather than huge, complex teams, and are facing an increasingly complex threat landscape. XDR can solve these problems, and consolidation is the start of the journey.

By autonomously consolidating data streams from across the organisation and generating a comprehensive picture of what’s happening, they can give the public sector a 360-degree view of their security in one place.

So, what’s next?

The news about the UK Treasury’s Head of Cyber Security position should serve as a reminder of the critical state of cybersecurity in the public sector.

All is not lost. If the public sector starts to consolidate vendors and adopt an integrated approach, it can start to move away from the more expensive and time-consuming approach of running separate solutions in silos. Rather than overseeing a portfolio with all the various update schedules, integrations, after-sales services, and management requirements that entails, IT teams can hand the majority of the back-end work to a single vendor. Implementation of new capacities and products comes as standard, and monitoring and reporting can be handled through a single dashboard, rather than a forest of different systems. As a result, staff time is freed up, integrations run more smoothly, and the costs of keeping up with evolving threats comes down.

In the end, the long-term benefits of consolidation heavily outweigh any questions about immediate cost-savings, or the lack thereof. With the financial and reputational costs of cybercrime higher than ever, it’s an opportunity the public sector cannot afford to miss.

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