Three ways governments can better protect public data

30 January 2023

Florian Malecki, executive vice president of marketing, Arcserve

Florian Malecki, executive vice president of marketing, Arcserve

Government entities regularly collect citizens' sensitive personally identifiable information (PII), ranging from social security details to financial information to healthcare data. They need it to do their job and deliver the services they're obligated to provide.

With all this information in their possession, government agencies are naturally subject to a wide range of data privacy and security regulations. They must implement data management systems that keep their data as secure as possible. Indeed, with data breaches on the rise and increasing claims for compensation due to these data breaches, government bodies must continually rededicate themselves to improving cybersecurity.

For hackers, local and national governments are seen not only as easy targets but also as high visibility because the impact of any hack is so widespread. A case in point is the city of Gloucester in England. A recent cyberattack on the city delayed benefit payments, planning applications, and home sales as it struggled to remove malware and rebuild its servers. The attack's recovery cost will likely reach £1 million.

Governments can't simply lock down all their information because they must be able to access and use it to provide public services. So, what can they do? Here are three ways governments can achieve the highest level of data protection, including comprehensive backup and recovery, without locking up data and taking critical budget and people away from serving the public.

1: Invest in immutability

The chances of being hit by a ransomware attack are more significant than ever. Last year, global ransomware volume skyrocketed by 105% year over year, according to the 2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report. While no industry was spared, the numbers were particularly gruesome for governments. Ransomware attempts on government entities rose a staggering 1,885%. That's more than double the increase reported by healthcare (755%), education (152%), and retail (21%) combined.

Because they're such a popular target for attack — and because, inevitably, some attacks will be successful — public agencies need the ability to recover quickly. They can do so if they use technologies like immutable snapshots, which enable organisations and governments to capture and back up their data in almost real time — and do it at a reasonable cost. Immutable snapshots safeguard data by taking snapshots of it every 90 seconds. It means that, even if an agency suffers a successful ransomware attack, it has a backup of its data at a recent time.

Immutable storage is what they say they are: immutable. It means data is converted to a write-once, read many times format, and can't be deleted or altered — not by hackers or administrators. There isn't any way to ‘read’ or reverse the immutability, which ensures that all backups are secure and accessible.

2: Embrace ease of use

Any government agency looking for a modern data-management system should insist on ease of use. It's critical because government IT teams are already pushed to capacity and constantly dealing with tight budgets. Ease of use means a system that eliminates the complexity of data silos by combining file storage, backups, and archival data in one platform. Another advantage of these systems is that they don't require you to manage various storage solutions from multiple vendors.

Storage solutions that are easy to use should also deliver cost savings and increased productivity. They don't need constant monitoring to ensure they're working. They enable you to ‘set it and forget it.’ This way, they free IT teams from the task of managing storage and let those teams spend more time on strategic initiatives. With a storage system that's easy to use, agencies in the public sector can achieve cost savings and reduce the time that their IT teams devote to data storage and backup.

3: Deploy a scalable storage solution

The public sector is now generating data at unprecedented rates. Indeed, according to IDC's Global DataSphere — which measures new data created, captured, replicated, and consumed each year — it is expected to double in size from 2022 to 2026.

This trend indicates that storage systems will soon reach their capacity and eventually fail to perform. To prevent this, government agencies need a scalable storage solution that can accommodate significant data growth without requiring forklift upgrades and expansive storage islands. Look for a data-management system that begins by offering terabytes of storage and can seamlessly scale up to petabytes.

Storage solutions now enable users to add multiple drives at a reasonable cost, at any time, and in any granularity to accommodate the storage needs of all an agency's constituents. They also make expanding global storage pool easy with no configuration and application downtime.

Final takeaway

Two trends are converging and placing severe demand on the public sector. Governments are creating and collecting data at an ever-accelerating rate, and the need to protect all that data is intensifying. They need better data management solutions to meet and master those trends. With an effective solution in place, government agencies can protect their sensitive data and use it to impact citizen services, innovation, and democracy positively.