While cybersecurity threats continue to grow and evolve, public sector organizations are worrying the most about increasing cybersecurity threats from foreign governments.

That’s one of the top-line findings from IT management software provider SolarWinds in its seventh Public Sector Cybersecurity Survey Report – which includes responses from 400 IT operations and security decision makers, including 200 Federal, 100 state and local, and 100 education respondents.

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According to the report, 56 percent of respondents say that cyber threats from foreign governments are responsible for the greatest increase in concern among public sector respondents. Within that figure, 68 percent of defense respondents noted foreign governments as cyber threats, compared to civilian government (53 percent), state and local government respondents (46 percent), and education respondents (25 percent).

“This year’s results demonstrate that while IT security threats have increased – primarily from the general hacking community and foreign governments – the ability to detect and remediate such threats has not increased at the same rate, leaving public sector organizations vulnerable,” said Brandon Shopp, Group Vice President, Product Strategy, SolarWinds.

“But the data also shows an increased awareness and adoption of zero trust, as well as a commitment to invest in IT solutions and adopt cybersecurity best practices outlined in the Administration’s Cybersecurity Executive Order (EO),” he said.

The survey also finds that external threats are now overshadowing internal threats as the greatest cyber concern for the public sector.

When asked to specify causes of potential security breaches, public sector officials expressed increased concern about ransomware, malware, and phishing.

Other key findings include:

  • The time to detection and resolution has not improved at the rate of increased IT security threats and breach concerns, according to 60 percent of respondents;
  • A lack of training, low budget and resources, and expanded network perimeters as a result of increased telework continues to plague public sector security pros;
  • Respondents suggested that improving investigative and remediation capabilities, along with reducing barriers to sharing threat information between public and private sectors, as the top priorities for compliance with the White House Cyber EO;
  • Over 75 percent of respondents said their organizations rely on a formal or informal zero-trust approach; and

A majority of respondents realize the importance of IT security solutions, and are prioritizing related investments in the next 12 months.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.