Thales News Release

Thales: U.S. Federal Government Agencies Experience More Than 20% Increase In Data Breaches

February 23, 2018

Government tackling how to best stay secure in midst of digital transformation

Thales, a leader in critical information systems, cybersecurity and data security, announces the results of its 2018 Thales Data Threat Report, Federal Edition, issued in conjunction with analyst firm 451 Research. In the past year 57% of federal respondents experienced a data breach. This marks a huge jump from the 2017 report (34% of breached) and the 2016 report (18%). In contrast only 26% of non-U.S. government agencies worldwide experienced a breach this past year.

Click to Tweet: 57% of U.S. federal IT pros say breached in last 12 months, 3x higher than two years ago

The new report finds that 68% of U.S. respondents believe they are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ vulnerable to a data breach, up from 48% in the 2017 report. Among their global government counterparts, however, only 42% claim to be ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ vulnerable. While there are a number of factors to consider when addressing U.S. federal government data insecurity – such as budget restraints and issues with staffing – this year a couple stand out.

IT modernization and cloud deployments go hand-in-hand

In May 2017, the Trump administration issued Executive Order 13800, “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure.” The federal government’s push for IT modernization – one that has spanned multiple administrations – is also driven in part by concerns about the cost and difficulty of defending outdated legacy systems. “The Report on Federal IT Modernization,” issued by the American Technology Council in December, directs agencies to put a new focus on security at the data level, as opposed to the perimeter.

A data-centric security approach is needed largely because of the growing use of commercial cloud services. According to the 2018 report, nearly half (45%) of U.S. federal respondents used more than five Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) vendors and nearly half (48%) used more than 100 Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. Over two-thirds (72%) of respondents expressed concerns about increased vulnerabilities from shared infrastructures, followed by custodianship of encryption keys (62%) and security breaches in the cloud (68%).

Garrett Bekker, Principal Analyst for Information Security at 451 Research says:

“The massive adoption of cloud computing does not correlate with implementations of data security tools suited to protect these new environments. Although 78% view data-in-motion and 77% view data-at-rest encryption as the most effective tools for protecting data, only 23% of U.S. respondents have implemented encryption in the cloud. Additionally, only 31% claimed cloud computing security was a top spending priority.”

Overall security spending is up, but how effective is it?

While cloud computing security is not a top budget priority, almost all (93%) of respondents are increasing spending this year. On the surface this may appear encouraging, but a deeper dive reveals 56% still plan to spend the most on endpoint security and 48% on network security. Only 19% will spend the most on data-centric security solutions, such as encryption and tokenization.

Nick Jovanovic, Vice President of Thales Federal, a division of TDSI, says:

“Encryption can be viewed as complex, and the management of encryption keys challenging for organizations dealing with budget and staffing limitations. But federal government agencies can start by selecting encryption and key management technologies that offer a smart, centralized approach and work across clouds, on-premises and in data centers. A good example of this is the 47% of respondents who plan to implement ‘bring your own key’ solutions to remotely manage their cloud deployments, which will assist them in better protecting and controlling their data.”

Please download a copy of the new 2018 Thales Federal Report for more detailed security best practices.