You shouldn’t be afraid to move your information outside of your own data centers


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To fully appreciate the value of cloud based storage solutions it’s important to understand the landscape of the tech world, and the risks involved. At a high level, the problem is government agencies being targeted by organized hacking organizations where their systems are compromised and valuable data is stolen, even ransomed. Like days of old, agencies need sentries to be posted on the walls at all times, watching for invaders who would do them harm. We see government agencies and corporations being targeted left and right which becomes an incredible problem for agencies of all sizes when their correctional systems are basically taken offline because of these types of targeted attacks. Just last month, Colonial Pipeline was attacked by a criminal hacking group which disrupted a major supply of fuel to the East Coast for roughly a week. The pipeline supplies about half of the East Coast’s gasoline, causing major panic and gas-shortages when it went down for several days following the cyber attack. It appears to be the largest ever cyberattack on an American energy system and yet another example of cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Critical segments of the United States economy are being hit with cybersecurity instances as recently as last month. Meat processing giant JBS was temporarily shut down after an attack credited to Russia-based criminal group REvil. These attacks demonstrate that critical infrastructure is not only a vulnerable but also viable target for criminal groups; the only question is will you take proactive or reactive action to reduce the risk of your agency being exploited.

The frequency of ransomware attacks is growing steadily, particularly within government and service industries, with attacks increasing 130% in 2020. Damages from cybercrime are expected to hit $6 trillion this year (up from $3 trillion in 2015), and we expect the number of ransomware attacks to increase while newer forms become more sophisticated and disruptive. There is a certain level of expertise and experience required to effectively mitigate risk and manage security levels surrounding data, a level not often met in most cases. The good news is that you don’t have to do it on your own. Considering a cloud platform to utilize for your correction systems can be safe, secure, and a comforting relief as the weight lifts from your back and ascends into the cloud. It can be a good approach for a number of reasons.

What is one of the main concerns for corrections agencies today? Manpower and expertise. Considering the ever changing landscape of cyber security and the increasing frequency of cyber attacks, it’s critical to understand the attack vectors and stay up to date on attack patterns that are being used. As it turns out, only 38% of state and local government employees are trained for ransomware prevention, and only 29% of small businesses have experience with ransomware. Clearly, special assistance is needed as security is getting more and more complex, attacks are getting more sophisticated, and competency is of the utmost importance. Microsoft offers a platform for correction agencies to build out their applications -Azure Government leads the industry with more than 90 compliance offerings including NIST 800-53, Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Vant4ge, (an app security provider like Microsoft) has built its application utilizing the services available in the Azure Government cloud with CJIS and HIPAA compliance in mind. All of Vant4ge staff is trained in HIPAA and CJIS Security practices, with operational staff and any service staff being FBI cleared for operation in each state. Microsoft Azure Government platform offers both CJIS and HIPAA compliance measures meaning their personnel have gone through necessary measures, fingerprinting, and background checks. Vant4ge employees do the same intense background checks.

Data maintenance and protection is one of the most important and time consuming responsibilities that come along with managing correction agencies. For those employees whose time is spent elsewhere, they may not realize just how much effort goes into maintaining the servers and everything deployed on them. Rather than checking a few boxes and moving on it requires constant attention and updates to remain competent and up to date. Managing updates, backups, data sharing, and security protocols are just a few of the responsibilities. These factors consume manpower and resources that would often be just as useful in other areas. Not to mention in the corrections industry, security is of the utmost importance because these are records of human lives. Thousands of people rely on the integrity and accessibility of the data you store and manage and it isn’t easy to stay on top of it all. You have to manage security controls around applications, operating systems, personnel, and so on, but most jurisdictions don’t have the staffing level to stay in front of the maintenance work that needs to be done – not to mention the security risks and requirements. There is a better way to store your data and it doesn’t have to mean more work for you. Keep reading to learn the value of placing correction data on the cloud.

The Value of Storing Correction Data on the Cloud

The benefits of adopting a cloud based solution are varied and quantifiable. To start, you’ll no longer stand alone against well organized cyber terrorist & hacking organizations. With Microsoft’s Azure, for example, you have a government team that is better staffed than public agencies, and better equipped to handle security threats as they protect your data. These people are watching your back!

Storing data on the cloud means taking advantage of various platform services to build applications instead of deploying code on a server that you manage yourself. When you have to manage both your servers and the apps that run on them you’re doing double duty. It’s the difference between assuming the security risk yourself and letting someone else’s staff watch your back for you. Rather than giving up control over your data, you’re reallocating the risk while freeing up both time and resources for your staff.

You can view the opportunity of cloud based storage as an ability to shift your focus. Rather than spending energy locking down servers and users’ access to those servers you can focus more on application security because you know all the server security is handled by Microsoft. You can focus more on application security and your own handling of data instead of worrying about what’s going on with your data centers, networks and all the hardware running all the different things they’re deployed on. 

Considering the ever increasing complexities of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act and established practices of NIST 800-53… these policies and procedures are baked into a government cloud provider like Microsoft’s Azure. The requirements piled atop agencies are only increasing – you have to build and house applications to manage offenders AND also become experts in the ever changing landscape of cyber security – another good reason to consider a platform provider.

You may be asking, “If our data is stored on the cloud, how can I audit to make sure that people aren’t doing anything wrong?” For example, if we have arrest records for PA in the database, what controls are in place to keep people from going and looking in that database? All data stored on the cloud is encrypted in transit and at rest. If you design your software correctly for the cloud all of the actual operating systems are encrypted or are managed by and updated by Microsoft’s government team and not your own. Microsoft goes through their annual audits, as does Vant4ge, meaning a government platform is a safe place for your data to reside. Much safer and more up to date than smaller agencies with small staff and outdated equipment or software. 

It may be time to move your information outside of your own data centers and adopt someone like Vant4ge. With a qualified team of experienced professionals on your side, you don’t need to be afraid of cyberterrorists or being unable to secure your data. Cloud based storage is the future of collaborative corrections, and a better way forward.

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