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IT teams in the federal space know how important it is to keep up with recent upticks in cyberattacks. As federal entities face these threats, heightened scrutiny and recent executive orders to improve cybersecurity at the national level have contributed to accelerated timelines for IT security goals. But accelerating your timeline doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get more of the resources you need to leverage against the effort. This challenges IT leaders to think critically about how their agencies currently integrate cybersecurity with daily habits while looking for new ways to utilize more secure software and practices. Ideally, these practices will help improve the security posture of their agencies.

Good security posture practices ensure that every team member brings effective security habits to their unique roles, including clear communication about security and a diligent eye on online habits. These teams understand that excellent cybersecurity goes far beyond the technology itself and demands that the people who interact with that technology always do so with security at the forefront.

Unfortunately, it’s easy for agencies to develop poor security posture without realizing it. These bad habits are typically minor, like not having consistent naming conventions or categorical organization for security incidents, but can easily spiral into security breaches, data loss, and compromised safety.

If you find yourself manually validating issues or struggling to explain your security team’s method for tracking incidents, your agency’s security posture might need some work. In order to reverse and prevent poor security practices, you have to be proactive. One way to do this is to apply healthy security habits, such as the three best practices described below.

1. Define and deliver security practices

How government agencies can use modern practices in the age of cybersecurity

When a team relies on multiple sources for security protocols and procedures, they don’t have a single source of truth. That’s why it’s important to define this truth clearly and make it accessible so that everyone knows their roles and expectations in case of a data breach. You can deliver your established set of security practices using open documentation tools like Confluence. It’s one of the simplest ways to ensure that everyone at your agency can access the most recent version of every policy.

Atlassian’s approach

Our security team ensures that security responses are clear and accurate by maintaining a repository of response plays in Confluence. These documents spell out how to respond to certain types of alerts, what our standard procedures are, and which escalation chain to use. The team also frequently updates the documents, while allowing easy access to the most recent version of the play. Learn more about how Confluence helps us define and deliver strong security practices.

Once you’ve established a single source of truth, you should communicate broadly about where these documents are stored, especially if your team is used to keeping documents in multiple locations. Additionally, you should work with those who maintain the documents on how often updates should be made, as well as how those updates should be shared with the rest of the agency (most likely a combination of physical signage and digital reminders). But don’t forget about your remote workers. They don’t get the same physical reminders about security as on-site employees (badges, signage, etc.). So, it’s important to define and share your practices digitally to improve security posture for your entire agency, especially in an increasingly remote world.

2. Adopt the right security tools and use them effectively

Your agency’s security is only as strong as the tools and practices used to monitor the network and respond to incidents. To develop strong security posture, you should consider how all of your agency’s devices – from computers to company security systems and software – can actually make it easier for everyone to apply healthy security habits. For example, think about how your security team tracks their daily tasks, such as tracking breaches, communicating updates, and documenting vulnerabilities. Does the software make incident organization easier? And does the team have a straightforward way to share that information? Reflect on your team’s practices to see where inefficient work might damage security posture.

atlassian’s approach

After an incident, the Atlassian security team completes a custom templated post-incident review that provides detailed information about the incident, what the team learned, and what action(s) they took. Doing so develops stronger communication and helps prevent similar future incidents.

3. Automate your agency’s security procedures

Modernizing in a high-security government environment

One of the best ways to optimize your security posture is to develop automated processes. This not only saves time and resources, but also significantly reduces human error. Automated workflows can range from automatic scans on incoming files to proactive searches for possible incidents across your network.

So, it’s understandable that federal leadership is increasingly recognizing automation as a crucial component of security – automatic scans often detect malicious activity before they escalate and can even predict future security threats. Implementing automated security processes also helps employees focus on mission-critical tasks, rather than performing repetitive security scan work.

atlassian’s approach

The Atlassian Security Team has connected its vulnerability scanners to Jira for automated vulnerability reporting and tracking. When a scanner identifies vulnerable libraries or misconfigured services, a Jira ticket is automatically created and assigned to the party responsible for the fix. This logging helps teams develop reports on trending security data across the organization and ensures that bugs are fixed within our defined SLAs. Learn more about automation for vulnerability management.

Improve security posture using Data Center

To learn more about automated security processes and best practices to improve your security posture, download Atlassian’s handbook for security and compliance with Data Center. Upgrading to Data Center, Atlassian’s suite of self-managed products built for enterprise teams, can be a great first step in strengthening your agency’s security posture. Data Center offers modernization tools, like shared services, to better develop security posture. It also offers security enhancements like advanced auditing and rate-limiting. Implementing security best practices and planning to evolve your agency’s security initiatives accelerate your team down the path to reaching your strategic IT goals.

How to improve security posture in the federal government