The majority of government executives believe new security services can positively change citizens' attitudes toward government, building confidence and trust.
By Lalit Ahluwalia and Peter Hutchinson
At the recent National Governors Association (NGA) summit on cyber-security in San Jose, Calif., government leaders discussed the serious cyber-security issues the nation faces and how states can better address digital threats.
This is not the first time that an NGA event has spotlighted cyber-security. Governors also highlighted this critical issue at their winter conference in Washington, D.C., in February, and state leaders and CIOs continue to place data and infrastructure security at the top of their agendas.
New research from Accenture gauging citizen expectations and attitudes about cyber-security provides some stark findings for public service leaders to consider. The survey of almost 3,500 U.S. citizens indicates that the majority of people (79 percent) are concerned about the privacy and security of their personal digital data, and a similar number (74 percent) lack confidence in government’s ability to keep their data private and secure. One-third of respondents also claim to have been a victim of cyber-crime, and nearly two-thirds lack confidence in the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cyber-crimes.
While these responses are concerning, they are not falling on deaf-ears. Accenture also interviewed more than 120 state and local leaders, and their responses were similar to those of citizens.
An overwhelming majority of government leaders (90 percent) expressed apprehension about the privacy and security of personal digital data, while two-thirds said they were aware of citizens’ lack of confidence in government’s ability to protect their data. Additionally, more than one-third said their organization has already experienced a cyber-security breach, and three-quarters share citizens' lack of confidence in law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute cyber-crimes.
The report also revealed some good news. Almost two-thirds of government leaders surveyed said they feel prepared to meet cyber-security challenges, and three-quarters are taking steps to implement new cyber-security services such as digital identity protection.
Government executives are also confident that their investments will yield benefits for their organizations: The clear majority of these executives believe that new security services can positively change citizens' attitudes toward government, help to increase overall satisfaction with government, and build confidence and trust.
While government leaders are taking proactive steps to enhance data security, they are also pragmatic about future challenges. Two-thirds (68 percent) said that a lack of funding is the top barrier to delivering improved data security solutions, followed by cross-agency coordination (61 percent) and a lack of in-house talent (58 percent).
So, what steps can government agencies take to ensure the privacy and security of citizen digital data?