A sign outside Big Bend National Park reads

Enlarge / The true consequences of the government shutdown for information security may not yet have been felt. (credit: Gary Kemp Photography/Getty Images)

The US Federal government is in the midst of the longest gap in funding for many of its agencies in history. As the “shutdown” extends into a second month, the economic impact is mounting for federal workers—including civil servants and government contractors working in IT and information security roles for the government—as well as the communities they work and live in.

Furloughs have had a real impact on the government’s security posture as well. Work at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on a number of initiatives, including work on encryption, has been suspended. Some “non-essential” agencies have had to furlough security teams, leaving them with no way to respond to incidents during the shutdown. Routine maintenance on IT systems, such as patches and updates to websites and server operating systems, are being deferred. And those still at work at agencies operating without a budget are doing so without pay and under financial duress—not exactly an ideal situation for maintaining a top security posture.

But the real damage to the government may be waiting in the wings. Several furloughed federal workers in information security who spoke to Ars this week said that they are now actively seeking jobs in the private sector out of necessity. A number of private companies recruiting talent in the field have seen a spike in job applications from people in government service. And even if the shutdown were to end this week—which doesn’t seem likely—some government IT leaders expressed concern that workers would come back to collect their back pay and then resign. And for contractors who have no guarantee of regaining lost wages, the math is even more vicious.

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