Department of Agriculture (USDA) CIO Gary Washington is crediting the cloud for keeping agency networks cyber-secure during the coronavirus pandemic, and lauding the technology’s cost-savings and efficiency benefits in a remote environment.

At MeriTalk’s July 30 AP Cloud: Advanced Security and Scalability for a Remote Workforce complimentary webinar, Washington said that tools like the Department of Homeland Security’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program and identity and access management technologies are bolstering cybersecurity across the Federal government. He added, however, that it has been an “ongoing, never-ending activity” to keep agency networks running.

“There are bad actors that are trying to take advantage of what we’re going through with the pandemic and USDA is not a stranger to that,” Washington admitted. “We have been able – through strengthening our cybersecurity posture and being even more vigilant than we have been – to keep our remote workers and their data secure and prevent intrusions.”

Peter Durand, vice president of Acquia’s Federal sector, added that cybersecurity must go “hand-in-hand” with agency efforts to be most effective. Fortunately, he explained, cybersecurity is now frequently baked into application design.

“Security in the past, quite often sometimes, was an afterthought in how applications were designed, it was layered in later,” Durand said. “Now, what we’re really seeing is it’s really become quite frictionless because it’s now being engineered into the applications.”

Cisco Market Strategy Leader for U.S. Public Sector Grimt Habtemariam clarified that there’s no “one size fits all” to a cloud environment, which can change how agencies approach security. She recommended a multi-cloud environment with trusted partners that relies on multi-factor authentication, but acknowledged that it may come with some sacrifices.

“In this dynamic, we’ve seen agencies make some trade-offs to be able to create that balance between security and enabling productivity,” Habtemariam said.

Considering this trade-off, Washington said that at USDA, the agency has reaped cost and efficiency benefits of moving to the cloud. “By moving to the cloud,” he said, “what we’ve seen is not just an improved security posture, but improved performance, productivity.”

Washington noted that because of the way cloud is architected at USDA, there’s little to no latency to access data or complete work even when working from home.

Read More About
More Topics
Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.