Clearing Up a Few Cybersecurity Contradictions

December 13, 2018 Brian Clayton

Sometimes in assessing survey results, certain responses may appear to contradict others.

That’s what happened with a few security and privacy responses collected during our recent Citizen Experience survey. The Center for Digital Government conducted this nationwide survey sponsored by Conduent to gather insights from more than 2,000 citizens and better understand their perspectives on their interactions with digital and traditional state government services.

In one of the first survey questions, only half (51 percent) of the respondents expressed concern about the potential for hackers to access personal information on state government websites. Given the unending news coverage of all types of cyberattacks, it seems that our survey’s respondents were remarkably confident about the security of personal information held by state government agencies.

And if that response seems unusual, another separate question elicited an even more surprising result. Only 18 percent of those surveyed cited the need for online services to be secured -- at all. This was an unusually low statistical result given the general consensus that nearly every organization faces serious, ongoing threats due to accidental or intentional breaches and other cyberattacks.

Reflection, however, helps interpret those few ‘outlier’ results. Because most of the survey questions focused on digital interactions, it’s not surprising that a majority of people surveyed were most interested in accessibility, usability and performance. It’s quite common to see these attributes overshadow other requirements, including the need for strong security protections.

Near the end of the survey, one final security question elicited a vastly different response. An overwhelming majority of respondents (91 percent) expressed concerns about submitting their personal information to state websites. And their concerns are considered most warranted, given that many agencies collect and store Social Security numbers, credit card information, health records and other highly sensitive personal information.

This particular response echoes a rising trend across all industry sectors, as growing numbers of people recognize the need to do more to protect their privacy when accessing and using online services. It’s clear this trend will grow as regulations requiring organizations to notify authorities about breaches and better protect private and/or personal information, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Australia’s Notifiable Data Breach regulation and even the Brazilian General Data Protection Law, begin enforcing stringent requirements.

In our borderless global digital economy, every organization must adapt to improve data protection standards and fundamental privacy rights. Social media giants, for example, are also improving user privacy controls, and have suspended access to companies found to have misused personal information. As a result, more people are taking an interest in how their data is used and stored by all types of organizations.

The rise in privacy reforms are driving the need to better manage private or personal information, no matter where that data resides across on-premises platforms, as well as private, public and hybrid cloud services. State governments that take active measures to improve security and educate their constituents about the importance of privacy protection can help assuage their concerns and encourage greater adoption of digital services.

To learn more about the Citizen Experience survey results, please visit click here to download the full research report, “Innovation, Ease of Use and Trust: Improving the citizen experience with digital government services”.

 

About the Author

Associate General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer

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