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The double-edged sword of more secure government. Mate.

What have we learned from the ACC privacy breach and the WINZ security fiasco?

That government departments need rigorous security measures if they are to enjoy the confidence of their citizens.

Of course, ‘secure government’ is a double-edged sword: while it keeps the nasties at bay, it also has the potential to obscure from public view the cut and thrust of politics; Otto von Bismarck famously noted, ‘Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made’, while Julian Assange showed us the truth of that 19th century assertion.

Across the ditch, the Aussies have launched a ‘National Security Strategy’ and thrown the document open to the world (does that make it easier for would-be attackers?) They’re throwing money at the problem, to the tune of AUD$1.46 billion, and possibly showing Kiwis the way.

Among the dastardly things this strategy is protect kangaroos and koalas from are:

• Espionage and foreign interference • Instability in developing and fragile states • Malicious cyber activity • Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction • Serious and organised crime • State-based conflict or coercion significantly affecting Australia’s interests • Terrorism and violent extremism

If you think that’s bad, here in New Zealand you can add to the risks:

• Red-faced officials as citizens readily find out just how rudimentary some security measures are Websense APAC VP Alison Higgins-Miller says securing government is clearly a hot issue.

“Commercial or government, organisations have discovered that leakage of information can cost dearly in terms of embarrassment, especially if that information affects people’s lives.”

It is also something the public is very interested in, she confirms. Indeed, the ongoing Wikileaks scandals show that we’re all fascinated and disgusted, in equal measures, by the machinations of those who tug on the levers of power.

Sausages, you see.

Keeping the ‘those’ cloaked in an appropriate level of anonymity from, presumably, all the nefarious sorts as well as their own citizens, depends on an integrated platform.

Higgins-Miller says this should manage all aspects of information going into and out of government, providing the ability to see who is moving what information and to where.

The big hold up? It’s not technology, it’s skills availability – and the fact that even well-oiled bureaucracies are still bureaucracies and ‘these things take time’.

Which means the next WINZ, ACC or ?department of your choice? headline might be just ‘round the corner.

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