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3 Reasons Governments Struggle With Network Preparedness

Let’s face it. Governments have a history of failure when it comes to Network Preparedness.

We don’t have to look too far into the past to see how devastating network events can be for governments. You can probably recall the dramatic day of the Obamacare rollout that resulted in such bottlenecking no one could get on. The network capacity wasn’t there to support the website’s login feature.

network outage healthcare.gov

But it’s not just federal governments. State and local governments are just as susceptible to paralysis without adequate network visibility. In fact, it happens often.

A string of Amazon cloud outages beginning May of 2021 not only caused Britain’s government home page to go down but also impacted major US enterprises, the New York Times, NetFlix, the Associated Press, CNN, and several others. Although the issue was addressed in an hour, the impact of even a short outage can be huge. This single hour caused major futures markets in the US to drop sharply minutes after the outage.

In 2021 Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles was caught off guard by an outage that impacted their website and created chaos for the DMV. Missed appointments and the inability to use the scheduling system took months to work through.

Why do governments, the organizations that have the greatest need to have network availability, struggle with this?

1 – They Lack Visibility

Whether at the state, local or federal level, governments are classic examples of tool sprawl. As different elected officials come and go, they bring with them their people who may have different software preferences. Life-time appointees or different waves of election cycles result in fragmented operations cluttered with different holdover applications and software.

Meanwhile, new employees bring with them their preferred programs, some not run formally through IT ( also called shadow IT). It’s difficult to get a clear understanding of where bandwidth resources are being allocated and when a network becomes oversubscribed. Without complete network visibility, NetOps are left dealing with unknown unknowns, namely vulnerabilities to applications on the network they are unaware of.

application latency

Average Application vs Network Latency, where application latency is in seconds.

Outages can be prevented by moving away from a lead server, single-point-of-failure network model. Governments are evaluating the effectiveness of distributing a network across a multi-vendor, multi-cloud architecture to reduce outage likelihood. Network visibility can make these change initiatives more effective by analyzing data of the existing network (baselining) and making recommendations of where changes can have the most impact.

Greater network visibility and topographical and geological views can make organizations aware of where points of failure exist and can gather data on the frequency of these events. Network capacity planning, reporting, and alerting are powerful network visibility features governments can utilize to predict where and when network congestion will happen. These network visibility features are key components of NPMs or network performance management platforms and can significantly reduce the frequency of outage events.

2 – They Lack Adequate Security Measures

Although the majority of outages are caused by poor network management and visibility, in recent years governments have been increasingly targeted in cyberattacks. From DDoS to ransomware to phishing and brute force, governments have struggled to adapt to a growing and rapidly changing threatscape.

In 2018 the entire Atlanta city government was the victim of a ransomware attack. Security scans would later show their networks had 1,500 – 2000 unaddressed vulnerabilities at the time of the attack. The impact affected many residents, cost the government millions to remediate, and took months to recover fully. For months the Watershed Department could only accept water bill payments from people who could drive to city hall and write a check. The Municipal Court was unable to accept ticket payments and suffered a huge backlog and delays for hearings.

A security breach in December of 2021 brought the Maryland Department of Health services offline. The impact was huge, psychiatric hospitals and health departments were unable to operate their computers. Death certificates were unable to be issued for weeks and license renewals for health professionals came to a halt medication access and concerns about patient information.

These are just a couple of examples but the list stretches on and on… Colorado Department of Transportation, New York City’s Law Department, the City of Chicago, to name a few. In early 2022 the joint committee on cybersecurity, information technology, and biotechnology released a 50-page report.

This report revealed that 40% of state departments are running networks and operating systems that do not meet current cybersecurity standards.

The investment in a Threat Detection and Response tool is well worth avoiding the financial cost of a hack, but also the cost to employee productivity, morale, reputation, and approval ratings, which can take longer to restore.

3 – Governments are Not Designed To Be Agile

The lack of speed that characterizes governments make them particularly prone to network failures. Approval processes often require multiple layers of approval regardless of how time-sensitive the matter is. While government’s checks and balances ensure stability in power and prevent reactive policies, these processes are not well-suited for digital needs that can require quick action.

Vendor procurement processes can take several months and if the situation involves end-of-life network devices this can result in network equipment sliding beyond its “expiration” to where it is no longer being supported by the vendor. Patches are left unpatched and single-point-of-failure hub and spoke network infrastructures are left in place because it’s easier to keep them than consider the monumental task of getting major changes approved.

image explaining why the government is network visibility challenged

Without proper visibility into a network, there is no warning when clunky, aging network equipment begins to fail and drop packets. There is no way to assess when QoS policies need to be updated to reflect a department’s changing priorities. Additionally, unpatched software and applications often contain known exploits that are easy backdoors for hackers to use to compromise a network.

The cost of recovery is exponentially more expensive than the cost of adequate prevention measures.

A 2021 survey of 300 US government agencies and organizations cited by IntelligentCio found that an average network outage exceeded $1 million in losses, and the average data breach, at least $1 million. Investing in a network performance management (NPM) platform can optimize your network, and prevent packet loss and outages. Investing in threat detection and response (TDR) can protect organizations that cannot afford to be down. Both of these tools are critical to closing the gap for government agencies that have long been lagging behind in the network technology space.

Why LiveAction

LiveAction is uniquely qualified to provide a solution to this market segment. The LiveNX Network Monitoring platform was purpose-built for Governmental Bodies. In fact, LiveAction’s initial concept was created in response to a request from the US Department of Defense (DoD) for better network operation visibility.

To specifically aid the DoD, LiveAction built an innovative visual display that follows the mental model of how engineers think. It graphically represents network traffic in real-time for unparalleled network management and response.

From local and state government to federal and international support, LiveAction provides secure, comprehensive network visibility globally.

Recently, LiveAction has expanded our portfolio to include a patented threat detection technology, ThreatEyeNV. This TDR technology can scan encrypted traffic for suspicious elements without having to decrypt it. It saves time and assures compliance with data protection policies around decryption.

Advantages LiveAction Provides Government Solutions.

Engineers can monitor and configure the network from a logical or geographical perspective as required. This capability leads to a rapid understanding of the architecture and traffic flow, enhancing the ability to identify trouble spots and correct them.

LiveAction features an innovative visual display, real-time data analytics, and deep integration with routers and switches for unparalleled network control. LiveAction accelerates troubleshooting with its QoS control, application-aware, and WAN functionality developed in collaboration with Cisco. LiveAction provides the high-level visibility needed to quickly identify security issues and the granular access required to resolve them.

uncle sam poster directing you towards network visibility

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