McAfee: Government and Public Must Share Security Burden

Governments should treat cyber security as a public health issue as they pursue next generation services if they are to reap the benefits of interconnected digital technologies without succumbing to the inherent data security risks, according to McAfee.

A new report from the security vendor, Why Can’t I Vote on my Phone?, predicts a future in which government services are increasingly delivered directly to the public via the cloud to personal devices.

Access to frontline services will be increasingly citizen-specific thanks to advances in identity assurance, while data collected from smart devices will enable a whole new level of personalization.

The public sector itself will also use advances in digital technology internally to become more efficient, flexible and “smart” in how it works, the report claimed.

However, there will inevitably be security risks in all three models – intra-government, citizen-to-government and citizen-facing – McAfee said.

Inside government the challenge will be to ensure data integrity as larger and larger amounts are gathered, and that vulnerabilities in the networks across which data is transmitted cannot be maliciously or accidentally exploited.

Data encryption should provide a baseline degree of defense and staff must be suitably trained in secure data handling, the report said.

When the public is added into the mix, issues of cyber security awareness raising, device and connectivity security and identity assurance must be considered.

But responsibility for all this lies “across the whole chain,” with governments securing the handling, processing, storage and transmission of data but citizens ensuring their device or computer is not compromised, according to McAfee director of public sector strategy, Graeme Stewart.  

“Part of government’s role here should be to drive citizens to behave securely in their online life.  I’m very keen on the idea of the idea that security is a public health issue and therefore should be pursued at such,” he told Infosecurity.

“Each of us has a responsibility to behave properly and appropriately. Coughs and sneezes may spread diseases, but a poorly protected smartphone will get your bank account hacked.”

If it’s able to maintain “public health” in this way whilst tapping an increasingly mobile and tech savvy public, the government could reap some truly transformational benefits.

“The content is now so rich, the internet connection so fast that people appear to be rejecting their fellow real world humans for connecting online. It is this concept of instantaneous utility, and government services will reflect this to a greater or lesser degree,” said Stewart.

“Anything citizen facing will need to deliver this instantaneous utility in order drive mass adoption; and mass adoption equals reduced costs through increased efficiencies.” 

The new government report comes just a day after McAfee released new research suggesting best-of-breed approaches to information security purchases are limiting IT managers’ ability to deal with threats.

A third of respondents interviewed by Vanson Bourne claimed their organization is using too many security providers, and 37% said that these “siloed” products don’t share information, leading to some threats going unnoticed.

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