Public sector bodies need to walk the walk with secure communications

2 min read
Public sector communication security

Public sector communication security

The public sector often requires citizens to share with its bodies a range of important and sensitive information. This data is key to ensuring different sectors in our society, such as; taxes, benefits, healthcare and education, operate effectively.

As with any important transaction, this process requires trust from the people who are providing the information that it is being shared securely and they can be confident it won’t fall into the wrong hands. If that trust isn’t there, it risks damaging both the credibility of these bodies and their ability to function.

Adding to this, in some cases it may not even require a service or department to lose public information for trust to be damaged. For example, the NHS recently put out a warning for people to be vigilant about fake coronavirus vaccination invitations being sent by scammers. While not being the health service’s fault, this could make people hesitant about responding to emails they receive from the NHS or sharing information through digital communications going forward, for fear of it being another scam.

Trust has to be earnt and public sector organisations need to demonstrate and communicate to citizens that they are implementing best practice, ensuring them that their information is being handled securely.

To do this, bodies need to show people that they are using systems and processes that protect their communications. Let’s say that a parent is looking to submit their child's school application and they are required to share a birth certificate as proof of identity. Simply asking this parent to scan and email the document to a ‘.gov’ email address may not be enough to convince them that this is a secure process. How do they know the email address is legitimate or that the files will not be accidentally forwarded on to someone outside the organisation?

Instead, departments should offer citizens access to solutions where they know the information they share is going through a secure process. Rather than asking for a document to be shared via email, they should provide people with access to tools such as secure file sharing portals, secure email solutions or encrypted data sharing platforms. This will help provide peace of mind for many members of the public because they will know their communications are being handled correctly and are going through secure channels.

At the same time, government organisations should make clear that they are using secure platforms for the transferring of documents and sensitive information. These ‘conversation starters’ will build confidence and trust with people from the very beginning of an interaction, increasing their willingness to share important data that is needed to process any requirements.

In an ever more digitised world where communications and the sharing of information is done online, the public sector can’t simply assume that its word is enough proof that it is working securely. Bodies need to show that they walk the walk and demonstrate to members of the public that they are implementing best practice, using solutions that guarantee any information they share is being handled in the safest possible manner. This will ensure citizens' trust in our institutions remains operational and that the information flow needed to keep society functioning remains intact.

Protect information by preventing data leaks 

Learn how public sector organisations can protect their reputations and sensitive data with our easy-to-follow Data Leak Prevention Guide, which you can download for free here.

 

Written by

Carly Stephens

Originally published on February 24, 2021

Last update on February 24, 2021