The hybrid work environment has created a previously unheard-of number of new endpoints that agencies need to protect. Federal officials examined the unique challenges that now exist as everything from computers to printers, mobile devices, and even sensors reside in and outside an agency’s walls during a September 1 GovLoop webinar.

When the pandemic hit, the State Department had platforms in place that allowed for department-wide collaboration when employees were forced to work remotely. But, according to Brian Merrick, the State Department’s Cloud Program Management Office director, as the workforce moves into a new environment, a hybrid work environment, the Department faces new challenges to ensure continuous operation, securely.

For one, the State Department must take another look at how it manages its systems and processes in an on-premise environment. And the agency is trying to seamlessly roll over to a hybrid environment, using secure cloud and browser-based collaboration tools moved between different meetings and settings.

“It’s a real challenge trying to have those same experiences in a now hybrid environment,” Merrick said. “But as we continue to roll into a hybrid environment, building cybersecurity upfront into the business and the technical architecture, we can mitigate possible risks.”

Moreover, data security in a hybrid environment is essential. And to do so, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) built partnerships with affiliate institutions to make sure security is upfront on both sides to ensure that data is protected.

“It’s important to understand how that data protection works, how data moves around, and how you’re going to secure it in transit,” Frank Indiviglio, the deputy director for High-Performance Computing and Communications at NOAA, said.

While there are a lot of very technical approaches to protecting and preventing cyberattacks in this hybrid work environment, “there’s also a cultural approach,” Michael Peckham, CFO of the Program Support Center at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said at the webinar. Peckham added that agencies need to continuously monitor their systems for any abnormal behavior that may arise.

“Probably the first and foremost thing that you want to do is make sure that somebody doesn’t get behind the firewall,” Peckham said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.