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Lacking cyber-education and skills is leaving local authorities open to cyber-attacks.
William Barker, head of technology and digital futures at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), has warned local authorities to prepare for an inevitable election cyber-attack. Speaking at the Soctim Annual Conference in Leicester last week, Mr Barker said, “It is only a matter of time before somebody will try some kind of intervention”.
To combat this inevitable hack, the DCLG has been working with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to understand what sort of risk a cyber attack would pose to local elections and how local authorities can guard against and alleviate potential breaches. His warning urged local government to safeguard against these attacks by preparing teams to deal with such a threat.
However, Mr Barker questioned the preparedness of local government to cyber attacks. “How many of you have put your electoral services team through a days cyber training?” citing the one day free training that the NCSC provides to make people aware of cyber. Moreover, he advised organisations and local authorities to make use of Active Cyber Defence, a programme launched by the NCSC to tackle a high proportion of cyber-attacks.
He would go on to cite Devolution and changes to UK’s local government structure as key to guarding against cyber-attacks.
The election of local metro mayors gives the opportunity to develop and instill a greater sense of urgency on cyber issues at a local level. Crucially, however, the new structuring of local government will allow for cyber to become a key issue to address, incorporating “cyber by design” in the delivery of services.
He said: “We are seeing an unprecedented change in the way the structures and systems of public service in this system work. Devolution raises a number of questions – it is creating an opportunity to integrate cyber resilience [from the outset]. The new structures and systems allow us to ask some fundamental questions.”