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New tech raises new cyber challenges for public sector


Mark Say Managing Editor

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As the public sector digital landscape changes, so do the cyber threats to organisations’ data and operations.

Emerging technologies such as AI, robotics and the internet of things (IoT) are opening up new possibilities, but recent history shows that malicious forces will invariably find ways to exploit any connected systems, and questions are arising about the vulnerabilities and risks that come with the new solutions.

These are going to be especially important as the drive to use the IoT in developing smart places could make the infrastructure of communities a target for cyber attack; and as AI becomes a feature in more elements of health and social care.

It is difficult to anticipate the details of what could come, but public authorities need to create the capability and culture to identify possible threats, take protective measures and develop plans to respond to any attacks. They are already taking cyber resilience seriously, but will have to take more factors into account and develop new ways of thinking to deal with threats in the new landscape.

The beginning of this is to ask a series of questions as the basis for internal discussions and conversations with their peers and the IT industry. They combine some that are familiar, but often need revisiting, along with those that are emerging with the new technology:

  • What are the concerns about cyber threats to the internet of things and how will it affect planning for smart places? 
  • What do they know about how cyber security relates to the increasing use of machine learning, robotics and AI systems? 
  • Will these technologies pose new challenges for staff awareness and good cyber hygiene among public authorities? 
  • What could be the priorities in providing safeguards for these? 
  • How do you raise the profile of cyber security with senior business leaders in the organisation?  
  • Do the fines for data breach in the Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR focus corporate minds on cyber security?  
  • There have been examples of ‘ethical hackers’ highlighting vulnerabilities in systems. Do you think the public sector should encourage these exercises? 
  • Do you see worries about cyber security as a blocker to cross-agency working? If so, what can you do in response? 

These questions will form the basis for debate at UKAuthority’s Public Sector Cyber Forum, scheduled to take place in London on 20 September. Along with the contributions from a selection of expert speakers, it will help participants to strengthen their understanding and examine the outlook for their own organisations. It will be an important step in getting to grips with the new risks that are emerging with the new line of technologies in public services.

The event is free to attend for the public sector, providing an excellent opportunity to learn more about a crucial element of planning for the digital future. More information on the event held in September can be found here.

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