Modernizing Government Agencies: How Okta Can Help Build Secure and Scalable Citizen Experiences

We often share personal information to obtain the services we need, be it healthcare, financial assistance, or legal advice. In doing so, we place trust in our service providers to keep this data confidential and secure—often without hesitation. When interacting with government agencies, however, we’re usually less confident.

By design, agencies have large security responsibilities to uphold, and with increasingly urgent demand. Today’s digital interconnectivity has created an intense threat landscape, as evidenced by high-profile data misuse scandals and increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. As legislation such as the CCPA and GDPR make strides with defining and protecting citizens’ data rights, people are more wary about privacy and data security than ever before. Now, it’s simply non-negotiable that government agencies actively protect citizens’ personally identifiable information and comply with all applicable regulations.

Cloud-based customer identity and access management (CIAM)—or what we like to call citizen identity and access management, in this case—offers agencies several big wins. First and foremost, it helps them protect their apps and data with consistent security and compliance policies. But CIAM also lets agencies create modern, scalable digital experiences that are easy for citizens to engage with. In the final post of this series, we’ll explore how that’s the case.

Striking the perfect balance with CIAM

Many government agencies operate on outdated legacy systems and disparate toolsets, both of which hinder their ability to address their mandates and expand their offerings. When multiple apps and services each require a different set of credentials, user experiences will feel disjointed, which can frustrate citizens and prevent them from accomplishing their goals. 

Moreover, this setup isn’t secure. Users will likely recycle credentials across accounts to get around the inconvenience of remembering multiple passwords, making it difficult for admins to apply consistent access and security policies from one app to the next. 

To truly secure citizen data, local, state, and federal agencies need the means to implement more effective authentication methods. That’s where CIAM comes in.

Securing citizen data

With a modern CIAM solution, such as Okta’s platform, agencies can deploy multi-factor authentication (MFA) in order to secure their login experiences. This gives them the ability to implement methods such as one-time passcodes, push notifications, and biometric identifiers to provide stronger account protections than just passwords, and can even eliminate password-based authentication altogether. 

With dynamic threat analysis from Okta’s threat intelligence data network, agencies can also stay on top of the latest threats, and IT can set adaptable policies that account for the user’s login context. That way, trusted citizens have a frictionless path to access the services they need.

Scaling agency services

In legacy environments, agencies often use Active Directory to manage their employees and connect to other systems for citizens and partner agencies. But in order to cover any blind spots with compliance and privacy, agencies need a clear view to apply, maintain, and audit policies consistently across all apps.

With Okta’s Universal Directory, agencies can combine all user profiles into one centralized directory that travels app-wide, ensuring that access policies and permissions are properly applied with every service. Okta’s various dashboard and syslog data analytics provide additional identity visibility, improving how quickly organizations react to any concerning issues or events.

Modernizing the DDTC

The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), part of the U.S. Department of State, manages the export of defense articles and services to advance national security and foreign policy interests. DDTC works with over 13,000 external organizations of manufacturers, exporters, and brokers. 

DDTC used eight legacy identity databases to manage these users, and processed export licensing applications using a paper-based case management system. The agency anticipated that a move to the cloud would be demanding, but saw that CIAM would help with managing access for so many collaborators—so they turned to Okta.

By condensing its eight databases into one CIAM platform, Okta helped DDTC transform the digital experience for its partners. Creating a cloud-based licensing system made the process significantly more secure and easier for contractors to engage with. In addition, it significantly reduced the time it takes for DDTC to complete its backend processes; what used to take weeks can now be done in hours.

With its new, centralized infrastructure, DDTC can apply different access policies for different groups and roles, and get a clear, 360-degree view across all its apps—so they know exactly who has access to what information.

Protect your citizens with Okta and FedRAMP

Government agencies must seek out cloud partners that commit to quality service, regular compliance reporting, and safeguarding personally identifiable information. 

One thing to look for is FedRAMP authorization. FedRAMP, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, is a government cyber security management scheme that evaluates which cloud services and products agencies can use. By using hundreds of controls, FedRAMP holds cloud providers to the highest standards in order to protect government agencies from security risks.

Okta has already been authorized at the FedRAMP Moderate level, and is working towards DOD Impact Level 4 authorization and a provisional Moderate level authorization through the Joint Authorization Board. Agencies can use our solutions to build a secure, scalable CIAM platform with confidence. Beyond FedRAMP, we employ SOC 2 Type II processes to audit our operations and security procedures, and our numerous industry standard compliance certifications show our commitment to secure citizen services.

Discover how to deliver secure, seamless citizen experiences by reading our dedicated Modern CIAM for Government whitepaper and Modernizing Citizen Experiences eBook.