The source of the greatest cybersecurity threats to the U.S. public sector is foreign governments, supplanting the general hacking community, according to a new report by the information technology (IT) company SolarWinds [SWI].

The company’s eighth annual Public Sector Cybersecurity Report says that 60 percent of respondents identified foreign governments topping the threat list, up from 47 percent in 2021. Careless and untrained insiders are seen by 58 percent of respondents as the top threat to their organization’s IT systems and 52 percent identified the general hacking community as the greatest threat in the 2023 report, which was released on May 9.

Since 2014, the top three sources of cybersecurity threats have remained the same for federal IT professionals and since 2019 for the state, local and education respondents.

The survey obtained 400 responses from IT operations and security decisionmakers, including 200 federal, 100 state and local, and 100 education respondents. Personnel from federal civilian agencies made up 29 percent of respondents, the Defense Department 19 percent, and intelligence agencies 2 percent.

The survey also sought response on obstacles to improving IT security, with 27 percent saying that the complexity of their internal environment is the toughest challenge, up from 15 percent in 2021, while 26 percent said budget constraints are the biggest hurdle. The latest survey marks the first time that IT complexity surpassed budget constraints as the primary obstacle in boosting an organization’s cybersecurity posture.

There is increasing awareness that zero-trust architectures are important to an organization’s cybersecurity, with a record 90 percent believing zero-trust needs to be implemented. The survey says that 85 percent of respondents—up from 78 percent in 2021—use a formal or informal zero-trust approach to IT security.

As for the biggest IT security threats, 58 percent of respondents put spam at the top of the list. Ransomware continues to be a concern, although only 32 percent of federal respondents put it at the top versus 41 percent for state and local governments.