Citizens, Government Share Cyber-Security Concerns

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Cyber-Security Concerns

Citizens, Government Share Cyber-Security Concerns

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?


Citizens, Government Share Cyber-Security Concerns

Create a Security-First Culture

Two-thirds of citizens surveyed said they would feel more confident if government agencies were to implement stronger data privacy and security policies. To that end, public sector organizations must take a holistic approach to security, working with their suppliers and partners to improve systems and procedures across the entire organization.

As new technologies proliferate and combine rapidly into linked, interdependent chains, security is often limited to the device and user. In order to effectively protect the entire data chain, security must be built into the software application layer, as well as into the devices, platforms and networks.

Build Citizen Confidence and Support for Security Measures

Despite citizen concerns, improved cyber-security and data protection measures can positively impact citizen attitudes toward government. In fact, 63 percent of citizens said heightened data security measures would increase their confidence (54 percent) and trust (57 percent) in government agencies. Millennials expressed the most confidence of all the age groups in government’s ability to protect their data.

It is important that government continues to build on this trust, especially as agencies explore more robust methods of delivering digital public services, built around new security services and increased security requirements.

Balance Security Requirements With Citizen Convenience Needs

When it comes to protecting data, citizens’ trust in government is on par with commercial organizations. Therefore, government leaders should not shy away from introducing additional security measures for citizen services, since many private sector service providers have implemented similar requirements.

Accenture’s research found that 66 percent of citizens would be willing to sacrifice convenience for increased data security. They also expressed support for improved security measures, such as additional login questions and increased use of emerging technologies such as biometrics to help verify identity and enhance secure access to data.

Accept the Challenge

Unfortunately, as cyber-attacks continue to increase in frequency and ferocity, data held by organizations across the public and private sectors will remain at risk. No government agency is immune from these threats, and no agency can eradicate them fully.

However, it is critical that state and local governments advance their cyber-security agenda and better demonstrate to citizens that the safety and security of their personal data is a top priority. When done properly, strengthening efforts by government to address digital threats will also help build citizen confidence and trust in public institutions.

Lalit Ahluwalia and Peter Hutchinson lead Accenture’s work with state and local government clients in North America

This article was originally published on 06-01-2017