While the news runs countless stories detailing the closure of national parks, little attention has been paid to the impact of the ongoing government shutdown on our nations’ IT infrastructure. As detailed in a recent article by Nicole Blake Johnston of the Federal Times, the widespread furlough of federal employees has left many critical security systems unmanned or of diminished usefulness. This gap in our cybersecurity defenses is an opportunity that cyber criminals are likely to exploit.
Although the network and security operations centers operated by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) remain staffed, the government’s lead defender of civilian computer networks is operating with fewer resources during the shutdown.
“DHS’ National Protection and Programs Directorate (“NPPD”), which contains many of the department’s cybersecurity personnel, is operating with nearly half of its staff gone, according to the agency’s Sept. 27 shutdown plan. NPPD estimates 1,617, or 57 percent, of its 2,835 employees will continue working through a shutdown because they are either presidential appointees, law enforcement officers, paid with funds other than annual appropriations, or needed to protect life and property.”
Contrary to the impression created by the National Security Agency scandal, sophisticated computer algorithms are not the only drivers of our security systems. It is necessary to have highly trained personnel analyzing the information that is flagged by cyber risk software so that they can make the critical decision to act when a security breach occurs.