UK citizens lack faith in the security of the Government’s digital services

Over recent years, the UK Government has made considerable steps towards digitising its services. A great number of public sector services are accessible online, while information sharing between departments and with other service providers is improving all the time. This strategy is not only boosting the efficiency of Government departments, but also making it easier for UK citizens to access and benefit from services.

While these digital advances should be applauded, it is crucial that the Government reassures UK citizens that it can be trusted to safeguard and secure the vast quantities of personal data it now stores on its network.

A Survey of 1,500 UK residents, conducted by YouGov in late September 2016, found that more than half (51%) of people believe it would be easier to engage with the Government and use its services if departments share information and data. Yet, a key challenge facing the Government as it brings its services online is the transition of disparate legacy systems set up under out of date long term contracts, to secure, cloud based technology delivered by agile technology companies who are experts in the space. The adoption of best of breed collaboration technology which has security embedded within all services will enable interoperability between departments, agencies and civil services and allow UK citizens to realise the full benefits of a digitised government.

As the Government continues to make this transition, serious concerns were expressed about the Government’s ability to secure this information. For example, 57% of consumers didn’t trust Government departments to share information and data about people with each other securely. Indeed, in the Government’s effort to move more of its services online, UK citizens were most concerned that the risk of data being leaked or hacked into would increase.

Even more worryingly, 78% of people either do not believe that – or do not know if – the Government has the appropriate resources and technology to stop cyber-attacks and identify data breaches.

This may or may not be a fair criticism, but following Edward Snowden’s revelations about cyber-snooping on some of the world’s highest profile political figures, as well as large scale hacks on commercial organisations such as Yahoo, it is perhaps expected that UK citizens are sceptical about the Government’s ability to keep personal data and policy documents 100% secure. Yet the safeguarding of this information is vital in the ongoing fight against cybercrime; whether that be everyday ID theft or state-sponsored espionage. To instil confidence in the security of its online operations, it is vital that the Government adheres to the most stringent of security measures.

At the very least, all sensitive information should be encrypted by default. Strict controls must be in place to guarantee that only authorised personnel can access this information. Who attempts to access which files should be constantly monitored to ensure no breaches of protocol. Departments should make it impossible for files to be shared by unauthorised channels, such as consumer-grade file sharing or cloud-based platforms.

There is little doubt that the UK stands at the very forefront of the movement to digitise public services, but with this position comes a heightened risk of cyber-attack. An open conversation between the technology industry and government leaders, which places security at the very heart of its digital strategy, is only the beginning. The Government must critically assess not only what technology they have in place but also who they have delivering these services. The technology industry has changed. The Government no longer needs to rely on ICT behemoths that have not innovated to best benefit from the cloud. The UK Government is leading the global charge with its G Cloud marketplace, which is designed to not only make it easier for the Government to procure SaaS services but to also enable departments and agencies to have access to best of breed technology straight from the innovators. Decisive action and implementation of new highly secure collaboration and communication services will help the Government restore faith in its services.

Covata is currently running its Dear Minister ad campaign drawing attention to the importance of securing secret government data, which can be seen in Westminster and St James’ Park Underground stations. Covata Safe Share is the only secure file sharing application with Tier 2 clearance available today on G Cloud 8. To sign up for a free demo click here.

October 5, 2017