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National cybersecurity must include local government mapping

5/02/2016 by Sharon Shahzad

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Experts have said that for a successful national cybersecurity system to be developed, there must be more inclusion for local government. Socitm, an IT consultancy firm working in the public sector, has said greater integration between local and central government is required if security is going to excel. With the increasing risks of breaches and attacks, it is essential for all tiers of government to work together.

The views come after a cyberattack was recently experienced by a local council. Last week, an employee at Lincolnshire County Council inadvertently opened an email containing ransomware. The resulting attack shut down part of the council’s computer system, including its library service, for almost a week. Although everything was correct and working earlier this week, many members of staff ended up having to use pen and paper to do their work during the breach. Only a few data files were affected by the attack, and security teams were able to quickly isolate and eradicate the problem; however, despite the attack’s small scale, the downtime affected day-to-day operations significantly.

Speaking about concerns for the British government’s overall security network, Socitm explained that some 60 per cent of interactions with the general public are conducted at local government level. This means that this tier needs to be included in the national development of the government’s security strategy.

The process of developing such a scheme is already happening, with Socitm and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) working on some best practices; however, Socitm suggests that more is needed. The consultancy group has suggested that local government needs to have a role in the National Cyber Security Centre governance and should be educated in the day-to-day running of the centre; in addition, it should help to craft policies.

According to Socitm, there is a great need for a ‘symbiotic relationship’ between national and local governments. There is also a need for local councils to spread their governance into other areas from which they are currently shut out, such as the Department for Work and Pensions.

Speaking about the latest breach and saying that although there are already solutions in place, more must be done, Socitm’s director of policy and research, Martin Ferguson, explained: “Thankfully Lincolnshire's experience is the exception rather than the norm. However, the ongoing threat from existing and new forms of malware and other forms of cyberattack means that addressing these threats needs sustained focus.”

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