Cyber resilience is ‘a lifeline’ for digital public services


11 Apr 2022

George Maybury. Image: Dell Technologies Ireland

Dell Technologies Ireland’s George Maybury discusses the critical role of cybersecurity in delivering public services such as healthcare.

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The moves to digitally transform public sector services today will directly impact the long-term wellbeing of citizens and protect the economies of the future.

Future Human

However, in realising the true potential of a new, efficient public sector, we must seize the opportunities of our data-driven era not only by preparing for innovative technologies, but also confronting the rising threats of cyber and ransomware attacks head on.

With the greater focus on cybersecurity in the newly published National Digital Strategy and plans to strengthen the National Cyber Security Centre by collaborating with technology leaders in the private and public sector, Ireland has the opportunity to power digital Government services that are citizen-centric and, above all, cyber secure.

Vulnerabilities

Cyberattacks cost €9.6bn to the Irish economy in 2020 alone. But the human cost is immeasurable.

From healthcare organisations taking care of patients with e-health services, to virtually connected classrooms at all levels, our public sector today heavily relies on digital technologies to operate.

That’s why, with an increased dependence on data, cyberattacks can be catastrophic for those who carry on providing the services that we as citizens rely on.

Preventative cyber technology is constantly evolving with new innovations to protect data and keep pace with ever-evolving cyber threats. However, a collaborative approach between the public and private sector in Ireland can help to maximise the cyber resiliency of digital public services as the range of such services expand.

As organisations come together to mount more robust, joint defences against cyberattacks, so too should the brightest cyber experts, CIOs and public sector leaders. Representing a large scale, global security issue, ransomware is everyone’s problem and could hinder progress in Ireland if not dealt with decisively.

Protecting data

Data is quickly becoming the lifeblood of public sector organisations in Ireland as they look to digitalise and enhance the services they provide to citizens. But accelerated digital transformations have created increasing complexities and data protection must evolve to meet new demands.

We have witnessed this trend in the past two years. While remote access to social services supported by always-on digital platforms boosted accessibility and streamlined efficiencies, it also significantly expanded the amount of data that the public sector is handling.

With Dell Technologies’ Data Paradox survey highlighting how 75pc of organisations experienced an increase in data demand in the past three years, it is more important than ever that key decision-makers place intrinsic security around this data and at the heart of their digital strategies.

Retaining trust in the digital innovations that underpin future economies and social wellbeing is critical to sustaining progress. This starts with holistic cybersecurity.

As public sector organisations in Ireland look to reinforce cyber resiliency, focusing on their most critical data is key – from court records with accompanying images and digital classroom attendance sheets, to object data from diagnostic systems and health surveys.

Placing this critical data in a vault will help ensure it is isolated, can’t be modified and can be quickly recovered in the event of an attack – enabling healthcare services to get up and running quickly again.

Better together

Protecting data requires a ‘people, process and best-of-breed technology solutions’ approach. While there is no antidote or 100pc fail-proof approach, enlisting a cyber strategy that focuses on all three areas is critical.

Cyber security is evolving quickly to keep pace with cybercriminals and that means cyber strategies should be constantly evolving, too – with stress tests and ongoing assessments to ensure they are fit for purpose. Planning and preparation are vital. This is not a journey that public services providers can travel alone.

But the risks of not acting now far outweigh the short-term cost of investing in tighter cyber strategies. Progress is at stake. It is underpinned by technology innovations that require patient trust, continuity, and reliability.

Take the potential for digital twin technology. A digital twin is the digital copy of an asset. By running simulations on this digital asset, IT scientists and researchers can study it and predict real-world outcomes based on changes in its digital operating conditions.

This innovation is transforming the sector and enabling healthcare institutions to meet pressing challenges – from personalising healthcare to combatting patient wait times. The powerful combination of the digital twin, IoT, AI and data analytics will boost patient outcomes and hospital performance.

But this must be supported by stringent cybersecurity to evolve with the trust of patients and healthcare providers – and remain operational in the event of a ransomware attack.

Ransomware is a global challenge and open, multi-stakeholder approaches across sectors will help organisations in Ireland ramp up defences. The nature of healthcare makes it particularly vulnerable and the stakes are high as it powers global and national resilience beyond the pandemic.

Securing the viability of public sector innovations with first-class cyber strategies will benefit everyone, everywhere.

As we look to transform our digital public services for the benefit of teachers, our justice system, local authorities, patients and healthcare workers, prioritising cybersecurity and resilience will become more than a hot topic – it’s a lifeline.

By George Maybury

George Maybury is the public sector director at Dell Technologies Ireland.

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