Government shutdown impact on information security

The first government shutdown in 17 years will undoubtedly put federal information security to the test.

Washington D.C. is a ghost town as over 800,000 government employees are furloughed, according to CNN analysis. However, a larger portion of the government is deemed “essential” and will continue to work. What impact will this have on IT?
Various government organizations have contingency plans in the works amid the shutdown, with plans to scale down IT teams while still maintaining and protecting critical infrastructure and sensitive data.

Some agencies seem to be better equipped to deal with the shutdown.

For example, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will furlough around 3,200 of its 8,026 IT professionals. While this is a large portion of people unable to work, the remaining employees will still be responsible for network engineering, information security, and enterprise infrastructure.

However, in other instances, the shutdown has more negative effect and will leave some enterprises with nothing more than bare bones IT departments to run legally “excepted” activities.

Agencies like the Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security Administration will each keep just a fraction of the usual amount of individuals expected to maintain IT infrastructure, as well as take over extra tasks for furloughed employees such as network services, telecommunication support, data center management, and more.

The FTC and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have some of the fewest amounts of IT workers left, with just six at the FTC and 13 at HUD. These individuals will be responsible for keeping systems in order and protecting them against security threats.

“I believe that most CIOs will have their security and network analysts deemed ‘essential,’ and they will be on a heightened [state] of awareness,” said Karen Evans, the de facto CIO under George Bush. “But because of all the services online and how government access these services, there are going to be risks.”

So while government agencies have the plans and personnel to operate smoothly during the furlough, these are plans that will likely not uphold in the long-term.