This article was originally published on www.federaltimes.com.
November – that time of the year. This year, November 1 was the start of Election Day weekend and the associated endless barrage of political ads. It also marked the end of Daylight Savings Time. But, perhaps more prominently, it marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Winter holiday decorations erupted in stores even before Halloween decorations were taken down. There were commercials and ads, free shipping on this, sales on that, singing, and even the first appearance of Santa Claus.
However, it’s not all joy and jingle bells. The kickoff to this holiday shopping season may also remind many of the countless credit card breaches at retailers that plagued last year’s shopping season and beyond. The breaches at Target, where almost 100 million credit cards were compromised, Neiman Marcus, Home Depot and Michael’s exemplify the urgent need for retailers to aggressively protect customer information.
In addition to the holiday shopping season, November also marks the next round of open enrollment for the ACA healthcare exchanges. Therefore, to avoid falling victim to the next data breach, government organizations as much as retailers, need to have data security top of mind.
According to the New York Times (Sept. 4, 2014), “for months, cyber security professionals have been warning that the healthcare site was a ripe target for hackers eager to gain access to personal data that could be sold on the black market. A week before federal officials discovered the breach at HealthCare.gov, a hospital operator in Tennessee said that Chinese hackers had stolen personal data for 4.5 million patients.”
Acknowledging the inevitability of further attacks, companies and organizations are taking action. For example, the National Retail Federation created the NRF IT Council, which is made up of 130 technology-security experts focused on safeguarding personal and company data.
Is government doing enough to protect personal, financial and health data in light of these increasing and persistent threats? The quick answer: no. The federal government as a whole is not meeting the data privacy and security challenge. Reports of cyber attacks and breaches are becoming commonplace, and warnings of new privacy concerns in many federal agencies and programs are being discussed in Congress, Inspector General reports and the media. According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, 18 out of 24 major federal agencies in the United States reported inadequate information security controls. Further, FISMA and HIPAA are falling short and antiquated security protocols, such as encryption, are also not keeping up with the sophistication of attacks. Government must follow the lead of industry and look for new and advanced data protection technologies, such as dynamic data masking and continuous data monitoring to prevent and thwart potential attacks.
These five principles can be implemented by any agency to curb the likelihood of a breach:
1. Expand the appointment and authority of CSOs and CISOs at the agency level.
3. Protect all environments from development to production, including backups and archives.
4. Data and application security must be prioritized at the same level as network and perimeter security.
5. Data security should follow data through downstream systems and reporting.
So, as the season of voting, rollbacks, on-line shopping events, free shipping, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and healthcare enrollment begins, so does the time for protecting personal identifiable information, financial information, credit cards and health information. Individuals, retailers, industry and government need to think about data first and stay vigilant and focused.
Get connected. Be connected. Make connections. Find connections. The Internet of Things (IoT) is all about connecting people, processes, data and, as the name suggests, things. The recent social media frenzy surrounding the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has certainly reminded everyone of the power of social media, the Internet and a willingness to answer a challenge. Fueled by personal and professional connections, the craze has transformed fund raising for at least one charity. Similarly, IoT may potentially be transformational to the business of the public sector, should government step up to the challenge.
Government is struggling with the concept and reality of how IoT really relates to the business of government, and perhaps rightfully so. For commercial enterprises, IoT is far more tangible and simply more fun. Gaming, televisions, watches, Google glasses, smartphones and tablets are all about delivering over-the-top, new and exciting consumer experiences. Industry is delivering transformational innovations, which are connecting people to places, data and other people at a record pace.
It’s time to accept the challenge. Government agencies need to keep pace with their commercial counterparts and harness the power of the Internet of Things. The end game is not to deliver new, faster, smaller, cooler electronics; the end game is to create solutions that let devices connecting to the Internet interact and share data, regardless of their location, manufacturer or format and make or find connections that may have been previously undetectable. For some, this concept is as foreign or scary as pouring ice water over their heads. For others, the new opportunity to transform policy, service delivery, leadership, legislation and regulation is fueling a transformation in government. And it starts with one connection.
One way to start could be linking previously siloed systems together or creating a golden record of all citizen interactions through a Master Data Management (MDM) initiative. It could start with a big data and analytics project to determine and mitigate risk factors in education or linking sensor data across multiple networks to increase intelligence about potential hacking or breaches. Agencies could stop waste, fraud and abuse before it happens by linking critical payment, procurement and geospatial data together in real time.
This is the Internet of Things for government. This is the challenge. This is transformation.
History is the likely final arbiter of the effectiveness of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), commonly called the Stimulus Bill. But, the legacy of that piece of legislation may forever change the way people view government spending. As never before, the ARRA called for and implemented transparency requirements associated with spending. In theory, citizens were able to track how stimulus dollars were being spent directly in their communities and the government was able to more easily identify improper payments, waste, fraud, and abuse. One of the lasting results is that the stimulus has done more to increase the need and imperative for government transparency than almost any other trigger in history. Further, there has been a large increase in demand for transparency at all levels of government. (more…)
In an recent blog,
“The CRM boom 10-15 years ago in the commercial world was largely driven by an intense desire to grow business. But, it is important to remember that it was actually very balanced. Customers and business both benefited. Customers got better service, more access to information, less wait times, etc. Business got better intelligence about their customers, more customer loyalty, better insight into product expansion opportunities, and ultimately high profit. Thus, a win-win for the customer and business.
For government customer service improvement efforts, the win-win scenario has not been so clear. Citizens have more access to information, more transactions and interactions can be done online, and access to government is streamlined, at least in some cases. Certainly government has realized some benefits from in terms of economy of scale or operational efficiencies, but not enough.” (more…)
“The public deserves competent, efficient, and responsive service from the Federal Government. Executive departments and agencies must continuously evaluate their performance in meeting this standard and work to improve it.” whitehouse.gov (Executive Order 13571, 1993)
For government organizations striving to improve customer service, the path to success has not always been easy. Incremental improvement initiatives have only provided a marginal return. As previously discussed, these initiatives have fallen drastically short of the win-win scenario threshold. Further, demand for new, better, and faster services is out pacing the ability of these already strapped organizations to deliver on additional capabilities. Budget cuts, new regulations, high staff retirement rates, and a plethora of competing priorities seem to derail the best intentions. (more…)
What is a 360° View of the Citizen? Not a new question, but perhaps one that is not been completely understood by government. Is the 360° View just the latest buzz word or pipedream, or a real solution for governments that can drive new levels of customer service, while also addressing some of the greatest challenges facing governments today including the dramatic requirement to reduce costs, improve service delivery, decrease error rates, and impact positive outcomes? Given the siloed nature of government, a 360° View may seem elusive at best or incompletely unrealistic to some. But, some forward-thinking governments are already well down the path of achieving a 360° View of the Citizen and using the power of this approach to improve customer service, meet the increasing demand for transparency, reducing improper payments, waste, fraud, and abuse, impact better program outcomes, and drive positive policy changes. (more…)
Government organizations continue to face increasing pressure to improve customer service and operational efficiency. To date, almost every organization has embarked on some type of program ranging from 311 call centers to CRM projects in an effort to be more responsive. However, these initiatives may be only scratching the surface of what is needed to achieve real improvements across government. (more…)
As the federal government reported an estimated $115 billion in improper payments in Fiscal Year 2011, the impetus to eliminate and recover these funds continues to mount. State governments also struggle with mounting and often embarrassing improper payments with estimated totals approaching $125 billion. (more…)