The Need for Secure Communications in Local Government

Lena Eisenstein
5 min read
Staff from local governments connect with many people every day. This simple statement means that communication between local government staff and constituents is highly valuable to cybercriminals.

According to the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, the public sector is a prime target for crimeware attacks. There were 22,788 incidents in 2018, and 304 of them confirmed that data was breached. The report shows the breakdown in the cause of the 304 data breaches:

  • Cyber-espionage-77
  • Everything else-52
  • Privilege misuse-51
  • Miscellaneous errors-50
  • Web applications-49
  • Lost and stolen assets-17
  • Crimeware-9
  • Payment Card Skimmers-1

The report goes on to explain the types of data that were compromised which were:

  • Personal
  • Secrets
  • Medical
  • Credentials
  • Internal
  • System
  • Classified
  • Payment
  • Bank

To make matters worse, most breaches weren't discovered until months or years after the incident.

Technology is available for secure communications for local governments. Since approving budgets for new technology in local government can be time-consuming, it's important to get the issue on the agenda and make sure plans for getting a secure communication platform are in place or will be in the very near future.

Local Governments Lack Cutting-Edge Digital Technologies Despite Need

According to our iCompass survey, about 45% of local governments plan to add technology within the next 12-18 months.

With this in mind, secure communication is at the core of protecting local government data. Every email and communication needs to be protected by end-to-end encryption and authentication, otherwise, it becomes a weakness in the system. Emails that employees send via smartphones are also vulnerable to cyberattacks. Local governments need to bring all communications inside of a highly secure digital platform.

By failing to protect local government communications, governments risk security, finances, and most importantly, the public's trust. Increasing security of local government communications lies more in how to get it done than whether it's a need.

In looking at the long-term implications of using digital tools for secure communication, integration is an important consideration because it allows for cost-savings and efficiency over the long run. Local governments need to view digital innovation as tools that will extend the life of their systems and retain all the data they produce.

Secure Communication and the Uniqueness of the Public Sector

Public sector services must be catered toward the unique needs and requirements of local governments which are different than those of the private sector. According to a McKinsey report called, 'Government Designed for New Times,' IT and the services they provide are no longer just a nicety. Technology, including secure communication, plays a central role in how they conduct themselves across every department. McKinsey notes, '...excellence in IT is a prerequisite for excellence in the public sector.'

The McKinsey report also aptly points out that many local governments are struggling to find the right resources in people, digital tools, management practices, and systems to bring their operations up to date while keeping communications secure and keeping costs at bay. Too often, local governments are guilty of bringing in new technologies or upgrading current systems in ways that add layers of complexity rather than home in on long-lasting solutions.

McKinsey highlights its 10-point plan for improving communications with local governments. At the top of the list is engaging stakeholders with what they value. McKinsey estimates that about a fourth of IT project failures aren't caused by technology. They're more likely to be due to the leaders' misunderstanding of stakeholder needs and subpar engagement with constituents. McKinsey recommends that local governments align IT investments with public policy goals. Local governments could do a better job of explaining the benefits of their current IT investments and the benefits of IT investments on their wish lists. McKinsey highlights the importance of making a good business case for choosing the right projects to invest in and estimating costs accurately.

More and more, citizens expect to be able to access local government services online. Whether citizens are satisfied with their government's services depends in part on having choice, access to information, and service that's simple and fast. Responding to the needs of citizens will require learning more about the kinds of functions that citizens value most, taking lessons from the successes of other local governments, and developing stronger IT capabilities. Local governments should rank citizen input as a high priority.

In addition to enhancing citizen engagement, one of the other key areas as indicated in the 10-point plan, is to strengthen core assets. The McKinsey report notes that many public-sector organizations have failed to invest adequately in upgrading their IT systems. They suggest that local governments address the risks that lie within current systems and form a plan to modernize them. Also, they recommend that local governments start to embrace cloud computing and the new realities of cybersecurity, as well as work toward building a pipeline of technology talent.

iCompass, a Diligent brand, is the #1 Choice in Local Government Management Software

Local governments work in a continual environment where expectations are high, and resources are slim. These are the best reasons to choose a management software system that has proven success in local government that is keenly aware that you need to watch budgets and timelines.

Consumer messaging apps lack the proper screening processes to know whether you're actually communicating with who you believe is communicating on the other end, which opens up a huge gap for the risk of crime and terrorism.

Modern governance means that local governments should be using digital tools that are reliable, highly secure, and will ensure business continuity and disaster recovery. With a secure communication platform like iCompass in place, you will be able to place a ban on sharing local government data and information on unsecure apps while keeping operations running smoothly.

As public officials and local government staff workers, you have a responsibility to protect all communications between the government and its constituents. iCompass management software is the modern governance solution for board management tools, HD video recordings, online voting, public records management, and an interactive Transparency Portal for active citizen engagement.