Federal cybersecurity workers tasked with protecting the federal government from hackers have been scrambling to catch up two weeks after the longest government shutdown in modern history ended.
According to a report in Wired, the cybersecurity workers that were furloughed for more than a month are now working hard to catch up to what is weeks of work, from analyzing network activity logs to playing catch-up in patching outdated systems. Wired noted that even before the shutdown of the federal government, it wasn’t known for having very robust systems in place to safeguard against hackers. Wired pointed to a report in the spring by the Office of Management and Budget which concluded that 74 percent of federal agencies need an upgrade of their digital defenses urgently. What’s more, the study found more than half of the government agencies lack the ability to catalog the software that runs on the networks, and around only 25 percent of the agencies meet the Officer of Management and Budget standards when it comes to identifying and assessing any evidence of a data breach.
The report highlighted the fact that web encryptions certificates for several federal websites lapsed during the shutdown, which meant people that who were accessing government websites were met with warnings that the sites were unsafe, while other sites weren’t accessible at all. Not only does that create tons of work for the furloughed professionals that began working again, but it shakes the confidence people may have in the government and its ability to protect them from data breaches. The report noted that there are concerns that the real impact from the shutdown will take time to play out.
In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the NSA, five senators including Minnesota lawmaker Amy Klobuchar expressed concern about the impact the shutdown will have on cybersecurity. “Experts have warned that our reduced capacity for cybersecurity during shutdowns provides an opportunity for adversaries and cybercriminals,” the senators wrote. “We are concerned that these circumstances have left our government and citizens vulnerable to cyberattacks.”