Comment

18.12.17

Building confidence in the digital world

Cllr Paul Bettison, chairman of the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board, outlines what must be done to ensure all levels of government are resilient and safeguarded against the growing threat of cyber-attacks.

Businesses and organisations are at an increasing risk of cyber-attacks, and councils are among these potential targets.

In a rapidly developing digital world, cyber security is now a vital priority for the public and private sector. The consequences of a crippling cyber-attack can be devastating, both in terms of freezing computer systems indefinitely, but also for jeopardising the security of personal data. A cyber-attack can involve criminals hacking into IT systems illegally and demanding ransoms in return for the services to be restored, even though there is no guarantee that this will happen.

One of the worst and most publicised incidents took place in May this year, when global ransomware attack Wannacry affected more than 200,000 organisations in 150 countries, including the UK, where it hit 47 NHS trusts – leading to operations being cancelled and patients turned away from A&E. This clearly demonstrates the potency, far-reaching damage, disruption and huge cost that cyber-attacks can cause, and why it is vital that councils do not expose themselves inadvertently to any cyber threat.

Protecting the personal data of residents, business customers and partner organisations from computer hackers is a top priority for councils which have robust cyber security measures in place, including firewalls and scanning services.

Councils carry out cyber resilience exercises and penetration tests on their computer systems, and staff are trained to be aware of digital threats and how to deal with them to safeguard data and ensure IT systems – and public services – are not compromised. Local authorities also work with public sector partners through Warning, Advice and Reporting Points (WARPs) and local resilience forums to protect their systems from, and put in place plans to respond to, cyber-attacks.

However, councils cannot afford to be complacent as cyber-attacks are predicted to continue increasing in both frequency and capability. Industry figures show that cyber-attacks on UK businesses have increased by more than 50% between the first and second quarter of this year alone. This equates to nearly 65,000 attacks – more than 700 every day – per business, which reflects the magnitude of the threat.

Like any safeguarding measures, cyber defence systems need to be reviewed, updated and strengthened regularly to protect confidential data, particularly when councils are now making more local public services available digitally across a range of online platforms and are getting more of their workforce online. Local government is planning greater collaboration work with national partner organisations – such as the integration of health and social care, children’s services and welfare reform programmes – meaning councils need to share more sensitive and personal information with organisations including hospitals, GPs, care homes, schools, academies, police and probationary services.

These trends, which aims to make public service more cost-efficient to deliver, mean that cyber security arrangements are paramount. This is why the LGA is leading on a bid to the Cabinet Office for funding for councils to build the sector’s incident management capabilities to respond to cyber-attacks. This will require new funding to develop the skills and capacity of councils and the agencies leading on responses, including the local resilience forums and the WARPs, to have the resources and necessary arrangements in place to work more effectively with local partner organisations.

The LGA agrees with the government’s vision of the UK in 2021 as secure and resilient to cyber threats, prosperous and confident in the digital world, as set out in its National Cyber Security Strategy. Investing in cyber security must be seen as an economic opportunity and we urge government to give funding to councils to build capacity to respond to the growing threat of cyber-attacks and ensure the safeguarding of personal data is as strong as possible. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION
W: local.gov.uk

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Council forced to apologise after telling ‘intimidating’ football fans they were unwelcome

16/08/2018Council forced to apologise after telling ‘intimidating’ football fans they were unwelcome

A Lancashire council has apologised after sending a letter that stated football fans “will no longer be welcome” in the town centre f... more >
Northamptonshire to sell education centre ahead of plans for unitary council shake-up

16/08/2018Northamptonshire to sell education centre ahead of plans for unitary council shake-up

Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet has agreed to sell its Longtown Outdoor Education Centre in an attempt to tackle a £70m bud... more >
Council halts non-urgent spending in bid to tackle ‘significant financial challenges’

16/08/2018Council halts non-urgent spending in bid to tackle ‘significant financial challenges’

Torbay Council has announced an immediate moratorium on spending as it tries to deal with financial trouble and a predicted £2.8m overspend... more >
149x260 PSE Subscribe button

the raven's daily blog

Don’t horse around! Council finds new home for house-bound pony

13/08/2018Don’t horse around! Council finds new home for house-bound pony

A council that took four years in a legal wrangle to remove a pony from an Isle of Lewis house may have found the four-legged beast a new home. Western Isles council removed Grey Lady Too – a Connemara pony that was taken into the home by pensioner Stephanie Noble on Christmas Eve in 2011 – from its residence in 2014 because i... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

interviews

Modern policing: the future is bright

06/08/2018Modern policing: the future is bright

SPONSORED INTERVIEW The public sector, and policing in particular, has often been criticised as being slow to adapt to change. But now, says L... more >
Michael King: Time for Ombudsman reform

06/08/2018Michael King: Time for Ombudsman reform

Michael King first joined the Local Government Ombudsman service back in 2004 as deputy ombudsman. At the start of 2017, he was appointed as the ... more >
Helping a city understand itself

06/08/2018Helping a city understand itself

SPONSORED INTERVIEW The urban landscape is changing. How can local authorities keep up with citizen behaviour? Stephen Leece, managing directo... more >
Data at the heart of digital transformation

03/04/2018Data at the heart of digital transformation

SPONSORED INTERVIEW Grant Caley, UK & Ireland chief technologist at NetApp, speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about the benefits of movin... more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

public sector focus

Understanding the apprenticeship levy

13/08/2018Understanding the apprenticeship levy

YPO has launched the first national apprentices... more >
LGO upholds 60% of investigations against councils

12/07/2018LGO upholds 60% of investigations against councils

Article by Callum Wood of Public Sector Magaz... more >