E-gov changes IT security landscape

The growth of interagency data sharing and public-facing services is putting new demands on government information technology security officials, according to a report released today by Symantec.

Data protection and availability are becoming increasingly important in this new environment, said Jeremy Ward, service development director at Symantec Global Services. The private sector is slightly ahead of the public sector in its awareness of data protection, 'presumably because the private sector feels it has been hit by a lot of legislation in this area,' including data breach notification laws passed by most states in recent years, Ward said.

But with increased sharing of personal data ' much of it spurred by homeland security and anti-terrorism concerns ' 'the data protection issue is beginning to come to the fore in the public sector,' he said.

Public expectations also are creating a demand for greater availability of government services once those services go online, Ward said. 'The implications of that for government IT systems is the need for 24-by-7 availability.'

Prior to the expansion of e-government initiatives, IT systems primarily served an in-house constituency, and service on a best-effort basis during business hours had been adequate. But when public services go online, citizens become less passive and develop heightened expectations. 'This drives you to take a different look at the relationship to the citizen,' Ward said.

The report is a break-out from a larger survey on IT risk management released by Symantec earlier this year. The public-sector focus is the second mini-report culled from the survey. The original survey had 310 respondents, 25 percent of whom were in federal, state and local government.

The federal government understands risk assessment and risk management and does it well, Ward said. One shining area for the government is asset management, a necessary step for risk management. But overall, government feels it does less well in training than the private sector, according to the report.

One of the budget areas likely to produce the greatest return on investment for improving security and availability is staffing and training, according to the report. The report cited a recent Symantec-sponsored IDC study that found well-trained teams average 10 percent greater productivity than under-skilled teams.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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