“The balance between too much security and too little is delicate. Overzealous access policies can bring efficiency and productivity to a screeching halt. But an overly lax approach can expose sensitive data to people who don’t need it and shouldn’t have it. The consequences can be brutal.”

For defense and civilian agencies alike, federal contractors are a mainstay in the public sector—and with good reason. Federal agencies have long relied on contractors to fill gaps and provide much-needed expertise, particularly in areas where internal skills and resources fall short. Still, even as third-party contractors fill a crucial need, they also require the same level of scrutiny and risk management as any internal employee—if not more so.

To fully benefit the agency they support, third-party contractors need access to networks, systems, applications and relevant data. The risks of this are obvious, but they don’t have to be inevitable.

The balance between too much security and too little is delicate. Overzealous access policies can bring efficiency and productivity to a screeching halt. But an overly lax approach can expose sensitive data to people who don’t need it and shouldn’t have it. The consequences can be brutal.

In the worst cases, insiders can pilfer and publicly expose highly confidential information. Such breaches present significant threats to national security and risks to important government programs.
But there are steps any organization can take to strike the right balance between security and productivity. Here are 3 tactics that promote both progress and safety.

Tactic 1: Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Too often, organizations on-board contractors and give them network access, and then forget to revoke that access once the project is finished. Other times, organizations grant too much access, giving contractors an open door to parts of the network they don’t actually need to do their jobs.
To solve this, organizations can implement an IAM system that not only allows IT security to create different role-based access controls, but that also lets them easily and quickly revoke access once a contractor finishes the project.

Tactic 2: Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Organizations need network-wide visibility to spot unusual behavior, threats and vulnerabilities. And the insider threat is perhaps the most vexing to detect and prevent.

Broad visibility into user behavior is possible with a solid DLP system, which should then be integrated with other security solutions. DLP solutions are used to detect when sensitive data (for example SSN numbers, intellectual property or classified data) is either being transferred across or (in the worst case) outside of the network. Without this, security teams face a much tougher challenge when it comes to threat prevention, identification and response.

A DLP system allows your security team to see who’s accessing what on the network – including third-party contractors – and to respond to anything unusual. Are individuals hoarding data? Accessing networks, systems, and applications they shouldn’t? Is data leaving the network that shouldn’t? Any of these activities could signal an insider threat. DLP systems can detect and prevent this.

Tactic 3: Internal Policies and Enforcement Guidelines

Even with the best solutions in place, organizations will fail at insider threat mitigation and risk prevention if they lack established internal policies. These policies ensure that security solutions are used to full advantage.
These policies, however, can present a security paradox of sorts. For instance, respondents in the 2017 SANS Institute Data Protection Survey reported that “enforcing policy across the lifespan of sensitive data” is both their organizations’ most effective control, but also their biggest challenge.
Developing effective policies and guidelines is both an art and science. One method for improving effectiveness could include mandated, consistent, manual checks. Better still, these checks could be automated and coordinated with human resources (e.g., when a contractor is being off-boarded). But, ultimately, they need to be designed and followed so that your security teams are constantly monitoring who has network access and what they’re accessing.

Putting It All Together

Deploying these three tactics will give federal agencies insight into:

1. Who has network access and what activities are permitted for each user.

2. What users are doing on networks, in systems and with data.

3. Which types of behavior are allowed or prohibited.

Third-party contractors will continue to serve vital roles for federal agencies. Common sense restrictions on user access, visibility across the IT environment, and policies to guide security decision-making are the best means of ensuring these partnerships remain productive, safe and secure.


Find out how security product integration can reduce your organization’s vulnerability to insider threats. Learn more about solutions and services from Sirius Federal. Call 1-800-391-0204 or email [email protected].


Related Blog Posts

See All Blogs

How Proper Collaboration Tools Make or Break Long-Term Telework Plans for Federal Agencies

Effective collaboration tools can eliminate silos and accelerate missions. But getting to a modern and secure collaboration environment can be a daunting task for federal agencies, especially with today’s mobile workforce. In the year and a half since the onset…

Sirius Federal Helps Maryland Food Bank Fight Hunger Through Virtual Food Drive

Sirius Federal ran a virtual food drive during the month of September to support the Maryland Food Bank in its fight against hunger insecurities.

Sirius Federal Kicks Off America’s VetDogs Partnership

Sirius Federal recently kicked off our partnership with America’s VetDogs, a charity dedicated to providing service and guide dogs for veterans and first responders.

The Role AI Has in Redefining Federal Telehealth Practices

Federal telehealth practices use AI to uncover the best mix of human and machine communication, leading to more productive care and treatment.

White House Encourages Federal Agencies to Modernize Their Data Centers

Government agencies encouraged to modernize in response to cybersecurity threats.

The Need for Exhaustive Data Protection in the Federal Government

SolarWinds breach prompts federal courts to add new security procedures to protect highly sensitive court documents.

Key Ways Converged Infrastructure Can Help Your Agency Conquer Cloud Migration

Learn how converged infrastructure can help your agency ditch the silos and modernize your data center for today’s cloud world.

Federal IT Focus Areas for 2H of 2021

In the aftermath of an unprecedented year riddled with a teleworking surge, election-year tension and—last but certainly not least—a global pandemic affecting every industry and organization in our nation, it’s safe to say that 2021 was welcomed with open arms.…

5 Tools to Help Federal Employees Return to Work Safely

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease across the country, federal agencies are slowly bringing employees back into the office. However, many employees who have spent several months working in a remote environment may be nervous about returning to the office,…

Using the CDM Program to Keep Federal Networks Secure No Matter Where Employees Work

As federal agencies deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on where and how employees work, federal CIOs that were already facing constraints securing their networks prior to the pandemic now have to contend with network security for the…

Remote, Hybrid, Onsite – Tools To Secure Federal Networks No Matter Where Teams Work

As COVID-19 restrictions ease, federal agencies are beginning to bring employees back into the office. Whether teams are returning to the office full time, continuing to work in a remote environment, or using a hybrid approach, the top priority is…

Sirius Federal Awarded ITES-SW2 Contract

Crofton, MD—September 9, 2020— Sirius Federal, a Sirius company, has been awarded the Information Technology Enterprise Solutions-Software 2 (ITES-SW2) contract. In addition to helping save time on procurement and cutting costs by consolidating their software purchases, the ITES-SW2 contract allows…

Sirius Federal Gives Back to the Community Through Virtual Food Drive

Philanthropy and community outreach have always been an integral part of Sirius Federal’s corporate culture. To support those in need in our communities, Sirius Federal is running a Virtual Food Drive during the month of September to support the Maryland…

Ignore the Workforce at Your IT Modernization Peril

Federal agencies are currently faced with the daunting task of modernizing billions of dollars’ worth of outdated technology. On the path to IT modernization success, the investment in technology represents only half the battle though — agencies also need to…

Sirius Federal Named Public Sector Partner of the Year and Federal Intelligence Partner of the Year at Cisco Partner Summit

This week, Sirius Federal was recognized for our leadership in the public sector by receiving two awards at the Cisco Partner Summit in Las Vegas, NV. Sirius Federal was named the Americas Geographical Region Public Sector Partner of the Year…

Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan that Keeps Pace with Technology

The fear of a disaster in your data center is what nightmares are made of for technology teams. Are the systems backed-up properly? Will we lose data? How much downtime will we incur? Does the team know what to do?…

Protecting your Agency from Phishing

As we spend an increasingly large percentage of our time online, we’ve become aware of the malicious tactics used to trick us into downloading malware or betraying our credentials. Even as our built-in threat detection improves, we risk letting it…

Choosing an IT Solution Provider that Keeps Projects on Track

Most of us have experienced a project that hasn’t gone quite as planned. Information wasn’t received at the right time, different teams had completely different interpretations of the requirements, or somebody didn’t realize they were responsible for a task. Little…

TechTarget: Big Blue Drives Collaboration Among IBM Business Partners

IBM is investing in resources and business processes to make it easier for IBM business partners to create alliances with each other. Following last month's IBM Think conference in San Francisco, Senior Director of Software Practice Charles Fullwood discusses the…

Deployment and Resident Engineers Deliver On-Site Solutions

At Sirius Federal, we provide solutions. From infrastructure management to cloud migration, we create custom answers to federal IT’s most pressing problems. But we believe strong, sustainable solutions involve more than just software and hardware. What agencies often need most…

WBJ: Here’s What it Takes for a Mid-Tier Maryland Contractor to Compete in Evolving Federal IT Marketplace

More than three-fourths of federal government agencies — about 77 percent, according to a Government Accountability Office report — will not meet their planned technology modernization goals by the end of the year. Our CEO, Mike Greaney, recently sat down…

The Rally Call for Digital Transformation Is Here: Are You Ready for the Journey?

Today, digital transformation has become the rallying cry for government organizations aiming to innovate and improve operations. The promise of digital transformation is profound: faster and more informed decision-making, improved customer insights, greater cost savings, more reliable products and services,…

Improving Insider Threat Detection with Security Integration

With cyber-attacks like Nyetya and WannaCry dominating headlines over the last several months, you’d think malware would top the list of security pro’s biggest concerns. But you’d be wrong, according to the SANS Institute’s 2017 annual data security survey. While…

Unstructured Data: The Threat You Cannot See

In this article for Dark Reading, Sirius Federal software practice director Charles Fullwood examines why security teams needs to take a cognitive approach to the increasing volumes of data flowing from sources they don't control. Every day, IT security teams…

Expect security, cloud spending in 2018 Federal IT Budget

In recent interviews with TechTarget, industry leaders--including Sirius Federal's Greg Kushto--cited an uptick in federal IT procurement activity during the government's fiscal fourth quarter and expected FY 2018 to feature security and cloud investments. IT solution providers planning to pursue…

NextGov: How to Unleash Federal IT Workers as Changemakers

Written by Sirius Federal's vice president of client solutions Jason Parry, this article was originally published at www.NextGov.com. The public-sector workforce has always been plagued by stereotypes. To the layman, “government job” calls to mind images of a middle-aged bureaucrat,…

SearchITChannel: New tech, old virtues keep server virtualization going

"Server virtualization is well past the peak of the technology adoption curve, but SMB customers, open source technology and hybrid clouds keep demand going." —John Moore, SearchITChannel Server virtualization platforms have been around for ages and would seem to be old…

FedTech: How to Make the Most of the Federal Hiring Freeze

Although the freeze may constrain resources, it is also an opportunity to conduct an IT inventory, invest in training and prioritize projects. In this article for FedTech, writer Phil Goldstein addresses how federal agencies are handling the recently announced federal…

3 Opportunities for IT Teams Dealing With Federal Hiring Freeze

With a federal hiring freeze ordered across the board for federal agencies, government organizations find themselves rethinking operations—including IT. It’s a tough reality for federal IT teams, with civilian agencies seeing the deepest impact. The order heavily affects IT professionals,…

DevOps: An Evolving Approach for Evolving IT Teams

By promoting collaboration and better communication, DevOps practices can help IT teams raise their profile and generate better outcomes for their organization. And here's how: Imagine you’re an architect tasked with designing a massive mixed-used building in Washington D.C. It’s…