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CBP Modernization Strategy Prioritizes Cybersecurity, Customer Experience

CBP CIO Sonny Bhagowalia said cyber threats have increased by 225% and require improved response.

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Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is embarking on an IT modernization strategy to enhance cybersecurity and improve customer experience for round-the-clock, cyber-secure IT offerings.

“My job is to make sure that I can provide secure and reliable IT services and capabilities anywhere, anytime and at the speed of CBP’s 24/7 mission nationally and across the globe,” said Sonny Bhagowalia, who serves as CBP’s CIO and assistant commissioner for the Office of Information and Technology, during FCW’s IT Modernization Summit Wednesday.

CBP is facing a variety of challenges as it continues to modernize IT operations, including increased cyber threats and border surges. In addition to IT modernization, the agency is driving strategic transformation to improve customer experience and deliver high-quality services.

“At the end of the day, it’s really about our officers, analysts and mission agents in the field to make sure that we are able to provide them with everything that they need at their fingertips,” Bhagowalia said. “I think that is absolutely the key… Because the threat evolves every day, the mission evolves every day, the scale and level of challenges evolve every day.”

To move to the “next level” of CBP’s modernization journey, the agency will focus on innovation and cybersecurity. Since 2018, the agency has seen a 225% increase in cyber threats. The agency currently experiences approximately 100 million attempted hacks per day.

“We still have successfully withstood all of that. How’s that possible? Well, that’s because we have complied with the federal mandates,” Bhagowalia said.

CBP is accelerating transition to cloud and optimizing data center operations to adhere to Cloud Smart and using FISMA and NIST frameworks to identify, protect, detect, react and recover from potential cyberattacks. These efforts are driving “tactical excellence” by driving faster processing times, more resilient systems, additional security and more affordable solutions.

“With that in mind, reducing application outages, faster deployments with capabilities, faster processing time, access to key information in real time, so we can make that decision anywhere, anytime with minimal disruption. Those are the kinds of things that I think we have to do and are absolutely essential to the mission,” Bhagowalia said.

CBP will also focus on analyzing the threat landscape and cyberspace. From the intelligence gathered, CBP makes risk-based decisions and focuses on risk mitigation to ensure the nation’s most critical systems are secure and always running.

“We also look at high risk population when looking at what are some of these high value assets. We have to make sure that high-value assets — these are the most important systems that run the mission of the country — that those applications are always on. They’re always working. We’re looking at methodologies to make sure we can provisionally keep them going,” Bhagowalia explained.

CBP hopes its modernization efforts will lead to improved and continuous measurements of value. Moving forward, CBP will focus on three key measurements: improving customer satisfaction, enhancing cloud and security and efficient funding and acquisition.

“The mission leads IT … that is really key,” Bhagowalia said. “As we put all that together, we are putting together a very thoughtful methodical [strategy] but always knowing that we got to work at tactical scale.”

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