Has COVID-19 made local government less cyber secure?

2 min read
Public sector survey results

Public sector survey results

COVID-19 has seen many of us dramatically change our working practices to halt the spread of the virus and keep people safe. It’s affected us as individuals and organisations and local government has not been immune from having to adapt, particularly when it comes to remote working. Many officials have had to go from working in bustling council offices to hosting meetings and completing tasks from home due to lockdowns, self-isolation or reduced office capacities.

The rapid adoption of these changes to ensure local authorities could remain operational has been remarkable and those who have made it happen deserve huge credit. Though that doesn’t mean there haven’t been challenges.

Opinion Matters recently conducted a survey of public sector organisations which found:

  • 43% of IT leaders in local government believed their organisation was ‘less secure as a result of Covid-19’

  • 11% of local government respondents were aware of 11-15 data leaks taking place in the past year

These figures are alarming but perhaps not surprising. Staff have had to change how they communicate both within and outside local government, replacing in-person meetings with digital alternatives. With so much more data and sensitive information being shared through these channels, mistakes are inevitable.

Accidently sharing confidential data through insecure, unprotected communication channels is an easy mistake to make, and the pandemic has only made it easier. With many local authorities now saying that full teams will not return to the workplace on a regular basis once the pandemic has ended, IT and security leaders need to start putting in place solutions to ensure the risk of leaks is kept to a minimum.

Make email security central

To limit the risk of secure information being leaked, IT departments should focus on email security and data protection. Many organisations are primarily concerned with preventing cyber attacks which, though important to protect against, make up a small fraction of data breaches.

These changes in working practices should be used as a chance for local governments to review their current email security practices, checking if they are as up to date and secure as they could be. This way, they can ensure that they have the most appropriate solutions to allow staff, whether working remotely or in the office, to work safely without the risk of important data being shared with the wrong people.

Knowledge is power

As well as this, authorities should look to put in place on-going security training for staff. Providing employees with the tools and information on what systems are operational, how to work safely and comply with regulations will empower them to work in the most secure way possible.

Change can be scary, but it can also be an opportunity to grow and develop. Local government organisations should use the disruption caused by COVID-19 to review and upgrade their working practices, ensuring staff have the best systems in place and the knowledge to protect citizens’ valuable data.

Whether working from home or in the office, let’s make security central to communication practices so that employees can work with confidence wherever they are.


Get your FREE COPY of the Opinion Matters Survey Results, which you can download directly here.

 

Written by

Kate O'Neill

Originally published on January 20, 2021

Last update on January 20, 2021