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As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe, federal agencies were forced to rapidly respond, ordering a sizable majority of personnel to transition from daily work life on-premise to a remote telework environment. While many agencies have embraced the change to varying degrees in the past, the unprecedented scale needed in such short time has left numerous agencies drastically unprepared to not just mobilize their entire workforce overnight, but then sustain it for months to follow.

All of this has put a strain on our digital infrastructure, on our devices' accessibility, on our security protocols and no doubt on our collective patience. 

Securing a remote workforce: Panel discussion

On May 21, I participated in a virtual panel discussion from Scoop News Group on securing a remote workforce. The session explored agencies' rapid response to shift to remote telework, what has gone right as well as wrong, how these changes will impact the federal government in the long-term and where we go from here.

Over the course of the hourlong session, three insightful discussions were captured among key subject matter experts and thought leaders across the IT industry:

  • Acting CIO of DHS, Beth Cappello and Mike Younkers, Senior Director of Systems Engineering for U.S. Federal at Cisco, shared the importance of planning and preparation for such an unexpected disruption.
  • CIO of FCC, Francisco Salguero and Sean Frazier, Advisory CISO for Federal at Duo Security provided perspective on what is top of mind when it comes to securing a remote workforce, and how the use of personal machines has changed the way the agencies are approaching security.
  • CIO of the Army Corps of Engineers, Dovarius Peoples joined me for a review of what agencies are doing to secure their growing networks while also ensuring their workforce can still do their job.
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In reviewing what has been most prevalently top of mind throughout this swift shift to a remote workforce, security and accessibility were repeatedly echoed as two of the top priorities.

The demand on agencies' networks has grown exponentially, consequently resulting in the present challenge of figuring out how to ensure data security remains strong while also making sure that people can get their job done. Organizations are faced with the issue of how to balance the use of personal items among the workforce while maintaining security protocols remotely from afar. This has subsequently caused an accelerated overhaul of security efforts cross the federal government.

As CIOs/CTOs/CISOs, we want to have the ability to provide our staff the ability to remain fully connected, and be able to do so from their own devices in a manner that allows them to perform and achieve their mission; however, it is our responsibility to make sure this is being done in a secure manner. 

The remote requirement

Ensuring the agency network remains secure is of paramount concern, and there is not a singular solution to achieving this with complete accuracy and certainty. It continues to be a situation of trial-and-error scenarios, where the threat of what a potential error could incur carries much more costly consequence.

Attempting to balance the priorities of security and accessibility is going to breed contradiction among a remote workforce that desires ubiquitous access to the data they need to perform the mission of their organizations, regardless of location. What remains true is that the ability to collaborate anywhere, anytime, on any device in a secure fashion was the requirement, is the requirement and will continue to be the requirement.

You can stream the virtual panel in its entirety here: SNG Live: Securing A Remote Workforce