New Sophos research reveals state of IT security in local government organisations

Leading cyber security company Sophos, today announced the results of its latest research highlighting the state of IT security in the UK’s public sector. The research, conducted on behalf of Sophos by Dods Research, found that only 41 per cent of respondents thought that their current IT security practices would offer suitable protection against the growing threat of cyber-crime. Almost 50 per cent said they did not know, indicating a low level of awareness of cyber security and cybercrime across the general local government workforce.

The research, which surveyed, 2,728 local government and police workers across a wide range of disciplines, highlighted that over the past 12 months, the majority (90 per cent) of local government and police organisations have been affected by budget cuts. This has prompted job losses (67 per cent) and cuts in overall front line services (63 per cent) in many areas of the organisation. When it came to IT, 62 per cent said they are planning to make savings by increasing or implementing shared services – splitting the costs with other neighbouring organisations. However, only 30 per cent of those surveyed said their organisations are exploring the consolidation of existing IT services to make savings, and only nine per cent are looking at consolidating their IT security services.

The research also canvassed public sector opinion about what the biggest drivers for change have been from an IT security point of view, with 59 per cent highlighting the demand for more remote and mobile working practices. Furthermore, 46 per cent cited increased awareness of data security thanks to high profile security breaches and upcoming EU legislation. When asked directly what their main concerns were from an IT security point of view, the research found that, issues around data loss (47 per cent) were at the top of the agenda followed by remote access (31 per cent) and targeted attacks (25 per cent).

However, despite the move towards more remote and mobile working policies, public sector organisations still remain sceptical about turning to flexible cloud storage solutions with only 16 per cent using these tools. This was an interesting find considering that other serious issues, such as shadow IT (11 per cent) and BYOD (18 per cent) factored extremely low on the scale of concerns, indicating that it may not be something at the forefront of local government security minds. In contrast however, 63 per cent of local government workers who responded agreed that encryption was becoming more of a necessity within their organisation.

James Vyvyan, regional vice president of Sophos UK & Ireland, says “With cybercrime at an all-time high and public sector budgets reducing year-on-year, it’s more important than ever that organisations maximise the resources available to them. There is a clear trend towards local authorities partnering with neighbouring authorities to increase and implement shared services. This collaborative approach is certainly helpful in the fight against cybercrime. Our research indicates that local authorities and police may also be missing the opportunity to consolidate their IT and security technologies, which can deliver further savings, helping to protect jobs and frontline services.”

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