With the vast amount of data available to Federal agencies today, government and private sector experts agreed this week that security teams have a pressing need to leverage automation technologies to better decipher the threat landscape, and to free up their creative capacity to pursue innovation and modernization.

A modern approach is needed to protect data, and AI and machine learning technologies are critical to making that happen, Gundeep Ahluwalia, CIO at the Department of Labor, said during MeriTalk’s Security as a Force Multiplier event on August 23.

“We are getting out of the ATO [Authorization to Operate] mentality into ongoing authorization. It is not like, ‘Oh, I checked it three years ago and now it’s okay for three years.’” Rather, he said, “It is about [whether] it is secure or do you have controls that are monitored on a continuous basis or not,”

“Humans can’t do it,” he continued. “There’s just so much data that is generated, so many alerts generated, you have to utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

Juliana Vida, group vice president and chief strategy advisor at Splunk, agreed with Ahluwalia and offered that automation technologies can help security teams and “free up the workforce so they can be invited to conversations about innovation and modernization.”

“There’s just way too much data flowing across every environment, every agency for human beings to be able to keep up. And for security professionals, that’s especially true,” Vida said. “Everything is an alert, everything is read all the time, and people are frustrated and exhausted.”

“With security teams… enabling the automation and orchestration capability of the tools that they have in place, they can free up the human brain to be creative and to be involved in those discussions about innovation and modernization and get away from the hands-on keyboard exhaustion of trying to track down every alert – because it’s just not possible,” she added.

Converting data into meaningful information at speed is necessary to deliver better services to citizens, Ahluwalia offered.

“We are sitting on such a treasure trove of data,” he said. “Not only do we need to convert that data into meaningful information and serve it to the right person at the right time, but we have to do it in a secure manner,” Ahluwalia said. “It’s extremely important to deliver the citizen services, because that’s why the Department of Labor exists, or any other department exists for that matter.”

“Truly, the technology and data strategy should be a foundational element of an agency strategy overall, across all those mission areas,” Vida added. “Hopefully we’ll see data strategy play a bigger role in the years, maybe in the months to come.”

To listen to the entire conversation, please access the complimentary event here.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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