Access security: The holy grail of data sovereignty and digital governance

Access security: The holy grail of data sovereignty and digital governance

4 min read

Over the last decade, governments across the globe have undertaken programs to digitize public services and enhance the citizen experience. In the United States, the Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) was signed to digitize services provided by federal agencies, modernize websites, undertake e-signature adoption, and improve the citizen experience. Similarly, in India, the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) is driving the digital delivery of public services across various departments.

Such programs will be enabled by the modernization of IT infrastructure across governmental organizations. Government agencies create and operate with massive amounts of public data, of which a significant portion classifies as personal identifiable information (PII). Without adequate safeguards, the compromise of this valuable data erodes data privacy and data sovereignty visions embraced and championed by other government entities like regulatory bodies.

In this context, governmental organizations must turn to the first principles of modern IT architectures to safeguard valuable data – i.e., access security. However, government bodies must be very strategic about how they implement access security – especially because of the value their data holds to threat actors and the context in which such solutions will be deployed.

Key risks underpinning e-governance programs

E-governance programs rely strongly on the modernization of IT infrastructure at governmental organizations. This not only includes embracing cloud solutions for governments, but also hybrid cloud, private data centers, and modern application architecture patterns.

Many governmental entities are transforming from paper-based legacy organizations to their modern digital counterparts – exposing them to an unprecedented set of risks. The most critical of these risk factors include the compromise of public data from unauthorized access by threat actors.

Data suggests that digitization is turning government organizations into lucrative targets for threat actors. In the second quarter of 2023, cyberattacks on government organizations increased by 40% in the United States. Similarly, Indian government organizations experienced over 4 lakh cyberattacks in the first half of last year. These attacks target increasingly sensitive services like digital identification databases, financial transactions, and medical data of entire populations.

As governments make digital services easier to access for citizens and to administer for public servants, digital systems gain greater exposure to cyber threats. In response, cybercriminals are employing new tactics like smartphone-centric malware, mobile banking ransomware, hot-desking, and watering-hole attacks for financial gain and to wreak damage on this new digital infrastructure.

Such risks put government entities at odds with the larger vision of ensuring data sovereignty and privacy for citizens and consumers.

Challenges of securing digital infrastructure at governmental organizations

Unlike business organizations, most government entities are not modernizing legacy IT infrastructures. Instead, e-governance programs are reshaping how these organizations deliver public services to citizens. Some of these organizations have never had an IT team, and employees may have low levels of digital literacy. This makes it difficult for government organizations to employ popular strategies like zero-trust based on the guidelines prescribed to corporations.

Here are some of the key challenges that government organizations face in securing their digital infrastructure during and following e-governance programs:

  1. Some e-governance programs entail the integration of modern systems with legacy applications and infrastructure elements. This leads to a hybrid topology and a lack of clarity about how to secure the entire footprint.
  2. Because public organizations facilitate critical services like managing and updating personal data, under-secured applications can lead to compromise of this data or offer entryway into systems that house this data.
  3. Government organizations also work with contractors and other bodies to service their systems and administer special programs. These contractors may also work off-site, and enabling secure access in such scenarios can prove challenging.
  4. Finally, low levels of digital literacy may also make it difficult to imbibe sanitary digital habits among employees. In conjunction with insider threats, these factors can be exploited by threat actors to gain unauthorized access to critical systems.

Mitigating these challenges requires government organizations to return to the first principle of securing modern IT infrastructures – access security.

Securing government digital infrastructure with access security

Access security forms the ground zero of securing modern digital systems. With highly interconnected systems connected to public and private networks, the IT infrastructure of digital government organizations is riddled with entry points that can be exploited by attackers.

Access security is the first layer of defense against internal and external threats

Access security enables government organizations to close off vulnerable and unsecured entry points for both insider threats and external actors. It also helps them move beyond less secure authentication mechanisms like passwords which may be easily bypassed by attackers. Here are five ways in which access security enables government organizations to mitigate data security and privacy risks:

  1. Implementing multiple layers of authentication with 2FA and MFA, and providing easier authentication experiences to employees with varying levels of digital literacy.
  2. Enforcing uniform access policies across the organization, which eliminates the blind spots in managing access to mission-critical systems.
  3. Monitoring actions of users in highly sensitive environments to maintain records that help spot the bad actors in the event of compromise.
  4. Applying the appropriate encryption protocols to ensure that data is always protected at rest or in transit.
  5. Continuously monitoring employees’ machines to detect suspicious activity, and triggering requests for strong authentication in such scenarios.

However, not all access security solutions are the right fit for government organizations. The ideal access security enabler will bring a differentiated mix of integration capabilities, ease of use, and support for all types of applications.

Accops HySecure to safeguard modern IT in government organizations

Accops HySecure represents a holistic approach to implementing access security at government organizations. It is designed to operate with both legacy and modern applications which characterize the application portfolio of rapidly digitizing government organizations. Moreover, HySecure is a low-touch solution that enables government organizations to ensure access security without deploying sizable IT teams to oversee the implementation.

With Accops HySecure, governments can implement biometric authentication, enabling employees to verify their credentials with fingerprints and face recognition. In addition, HySecure can help employees reset their passwords with self-service, minimizing the workload on IT service teams or third-party contractors. Finally, HySecure also offers built-in reporting and monitoring capabilities, which enables closed-loop access security for modern digital estates.

Next steps

Digitization of government services brings greater efficiency to the delivery of government services and makes them more easily accessible to citizens. Therefore, e-governance plans are being pursued by nations across the globe.

However, e-governance programs also expose government organizations to data security and privacy risks. This makes it crucial to implement consistent and reliable access security as the first line of defense against internal and external threat actors.

However, the outcomes depend largely on the attributes of the access security solution adopted by government organizations. Accops HySecure is a modern and interoperable solution replete with all the critical capabilities that enable the successful implementation of access security at government organizations.

With Accops HySecure data sovereignty and privacy are an achievable vision for government organizations digitizing their services within the ambit of e-governance initiatives.