If a Council wants to get information out quick to its citizens, what’s the best (and most secure) way?
I was asked to proffer an opinion on this topic the other day, and though I should blog my musings. Before the person who I offered it to has a fit, I’ve removed the references to who it is….
The overview of the problem is that Open Gov forces data to the peripheries of an organisation rather than burying it deep inside the organisation. Ergo, its more at risk. You only have to look at cases like the recent Wikileaks stuff or the ACS Law case to back this up. And in the case of ACS Law, it was the website that was hacked to get the data, so you have to assume that websites are not necessarily the secure environments they are supposed to be.
The approach has to be the classic process, people product: Where is the data generated; where does it live; who has access to it; who has sign off on its movement; who owns the risk (hopefully the SIRO, who has a big stick); what controls/audit trails are in place.
For example, if the information store it is drawn from is encrypted, and only the person who has access to this can draw down the info for the twitter feed, then that is demonstrably secure and you have an audit trail for its loss. At the other extreme, if you have an internet facing database of information that is not encrypted, that has little or no authentication, and no audit trail for information movement, then that is potentially insecure.
The other issue is the play-off between between threat, impact and utility. For example, information on school closures due to snow is low threat, low impact BUT high utility. So therefore the amount of security required on its transmission is relatively low beyond appropriate processes. Also, having spent ages hitting F5 refreshing the screen on the Gloucestershire CC school closures website during the snow, part of the risk on information transmission here was that the website fell over due to traffic, so no risk but no utility either. Another example is the Police website showing crime in your area, which has low threat, low impact, high utility, and fell over in minutes due to interest.
Twitter will not affect the impact the Council website, meaning that other services would remain available during times of high school closure rates (or less likely to be affected due to multiple channel use by the public). If the Twitter account gets hacked (and I’d suggest the owner of the account changes the password once a week for example as part of the process), the maximum possible damage is some pissed off parents, but you have to ask, if the security procedures are followed, the data movement/ownership piece is followed, the chances are very small.
The synopsis: multi-channels are the way forward, and it requires proper process to enable it to work. Get the process/procedures right, and everything should be hunky dory