Councils ‘must play part in national cybersecurity ecosystem’

Socitm has called on the UK government to include local authorities in the development of the government’s National Cybersecurity Strategy.

In the wake of the ransomware attacks on Lincolnshire County Council’s infrastructure which resulted in parts of it being shut down for around a week, the representative body for public sector ICT professionals said that this would ensure that local government needs are treated as part of the ‘ecosystem’ of government digital services.

The National Cybersecurity Strategy wasannounced in the Autumn Statement and includes £1.9bn over the next five years to bolster the UK’s cyber defences.

Martin Ferguson, director of policy and research at Socitm, pointed out that 70% of citizen interactions with government are at local government level and called for those elements of public infrastructure to be included within the government’s national strategy. 

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“Local government should play an active role in the planned National Cybersecurity centre. This includes its governance and the co-design of solutions, advice, support, etc. that is grounded in an awareness of local community and business priorities and ways of working,” he said.

He added that central and local government should be in a symbiotic relationship to resource and develop local capacity to ensure secure operation of joined-up services.

Ferguson said that the Lincolnshire ransomware attack was a “rare example” of a successful attack.

He said: “Lincolnshire’s experience is the exception rather than the norm. However, the ongoing threat from existing and new forms of malware and other forms of cyber-attack means that addressing these threats needs sustained focus.” 

“Local government has a strong track record of investing in information security and of engaging service managers in business continuity planning,” he said.

“Socitm has been working with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to share best practice in cybersecurity over many years and discussions with the department are in train to explore the possibility of central funding for local government to help further cybersecurity best practice among councils.” 

Colin Marrs

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