In the modern era of IT security, few have seen as much – and done more to make it secure – than Bill Rucker, president of Trustwave Government Solutions. In the midst of a 20-year stretch in the public sector market that began with Intellitactics prior to its acquisition by Trustwave, Rucker leads the company’s effort to help government fight cybercrime, protect data, and reduce security risk.

We sat down with Rucker to pick his brain about Federal government IT performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of reliable data for citizens, and long-term benefits that may spring from these dangerous times – including a bigger push to innovation.

MeriTalk: In the current climate, what can the Federal government do right now on the tech front to better sustain and improve service to citizens and to the Federal workforce? What’s your view on how Feds are doing?

Rucker: One of the things that I’ve seen through this period is unprecedented collaboration taking place across the Federal government in the middle of a very tough situation that took a lot of people by surprise on how quickly it escalated. I think the government’s done a ton of work over the last decade to really work on e-government to enable those services for American citizens, and make sure they have good data, and we can see the fruits of those efforts now.

I’ve seen some really impressive things on both sides of the public and private-sector fence in the past 21 days.

MeriTalk: Do any particular challenges come to mind?

Rucker: I think one of the challenges is that sometimes there’s such an onslaught of information and data that people can’t sift through it in a very efficient way to be able to tell what services have actually been made available to them. Even with COVID-19, there’s been a lot of content pushed out by the government, but people don’t always know where to go to find it. It’s pretty easy for them to become confused, and couple that with the threat of virus-related online scams, the citizen’s environment can become confusing.

The Federal Trade Commission has done a great job of giving a lot of detail on the scams that are out there. Our organization does some pretty cool work (SpiderLabs Blog) globally around tracking spam and business email compromises, and we started seeing an uptick in this whole area as early as mid-February.

MeriTalk: Looking out over the next six months toward a national recovery from the pandemic, what can Federal leadership and agencies do to get ready for that?

Rucker: The government must continue to collaborate and communicate, but what I think is going to be really important over this time is innovation. I really hope that both industry and government, through our public-private partnerships, embrace the innovation that we’ve seen through this time period.

We’ve had challenges that we’ve not seen in the past, and there’s been a ton of great work done in the last few weeks through various platforms that allow us to be in the same room, and we’re still getting our jobs done because of it.

For some of us that are supporting the government in cybersecurity and other areas, I’m not going to say it’s been business as usual, but we are pushing forward and still solving organizations’ complex cybersecurity problems. People didn’t just drop everything and run out the door. I love the fact that we’re embracing innovation during this period. As a result, we’re going to come out of this with some efficiencies and some ways to do things differently that will make the public-private partnerships even stronger in the long term.

MeriTalk: How about on the information front?

Rucker: The other piece of the recovery is the government needs to continue to push to that single source of truth for citizens, and publish as much information as possible that’s truly accurate so that people know where those primary sources are. Misinformation doesn’t help anyone.

But some of that also has to do with the different threat vectors that different organizations are dealing with, from government organizations on the front lines like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), to the state government level with the National Governors Association, which has done a really good job for citizen’s local information. It’s about clarity and good information acting to reduce the noise as much as possible.

MeriTalk: What can your company do now, and over the next several months, to help the government – or other large organizations – get better at the way they function as we move closer to recovery?

Rucker: What’s interesting is how many large organizations have never had the bulk of their operations working remotely, so that is uncharted waters for many of us including government. Adversaries only have to be right once – we have to be right everytime. The bad guys will look to take advantage of the new vulnerabilities that are being added to these remote infrastructures.

What will be interesting as things get back to normal is whether the current ways of remote working will become the new normal. Nobody really knows the answer to that question now, but with all of the efficiencies and other things we will realize through this, I think we’ll be doing things differently going forward. We’re going to realize efficiencies and be more productive in ways that we hadn’t thought of before – that’s what I’ve ever seen with my team over the last three weeks.

Trustwave has the ability to help customers in numerous ways as they’ve gotten into these new environments and into telework, especially when things move fast, require more agility, and more risks get introduced into their environments. We’re known for being one of the best data protection companies out there that serves the Federal government, and helping to address vulnerabilities when organizations stand up new environments is something we are bringing to bear. Couple that with next generation TDR (Threat Detection & Response) through advanced managed security services, and we are confident that we can continue to support and advance the cyber mission as the landscape changes.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.