BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – As more and more people access government services online, keeping data secure from hackers has become one of the biggest challenges facing governments at all levels, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday.
“I think it’s fair to say that governments generally and state government, this one in particular, have a long way to go to catch up with where the leading-edge thinkers are in most of these spaces, and that causes me a certain amount of nervousness,” Baker said. “It’s not the only thing I lie awake at night worrying about, but it’s one of several things.”
The governor said that while different state entities must focus on the security of confidential or personal data along with other priorities like accessibility, transparency and functionality of their web services, hackers can devote all their time and resources to the singular goal of obtaining data.
“Probably one of the biggest challenges governments generally, including ours, are going to face over the course of the next five years or so is, can we…catch up with, play with, a lot of folks who are chasing this stuff in the — what I’ll call sort of just the general hack-o-rama that exists out there in cyberspace — and get better and smarter about how to serve all the internal and external constituencies we deal with every single day,” Baker said. “I think that’s a really big challenge, not just for us, but for others.”
Baker spoke at a summit held by Comptroller Thomas Shack at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, which brought together leaders from the state’s 152 agencies to discuss strategies supporting digital efforts.
Mark Nunnelly, the former state revenue commissioner who now serves as executive director of the technology office MassIT, presented survey results showing 76 percent of respondents used a state government website in the past 12 months, with 35 percent interacting with a state agency via email, 4 percent via mobile app and 3 percent via text message.
Over the same timeframe, 55 percent interacted with the government via phone, 39 percent in person, and 38 percent via postal mail.
“This is really about making ourselves ready for a world of digital government,” Nunnelly said.
On the topic of security, Nunnelly said cyber-attackers have evolved over time, from “a world where they’re basically thieves, to sophisticated thieves, to sophisticated terrorists.”
“I, as the leader of the Department of Revenue, always was worried that that next phone call was from somewhere in Eastern Europe that says, ‘We’re getting ready to blow up the tax database, and, you know, what are you going to do about it,'” he said. “I think we are well in front of them at this point of time in a lot of different ways.”
As threats continue to evolve, Nunnelly said, state government information security will have to grow with them, taking into account who is accessing information, why they need it and what “pathways and accessibilities should they have.”
“That requires a giant leap forward in the sophistication that we bring in parsing security and controls, and really sets the challenge for the next set of years,” he said.
Nunnelly said his office’s plans for the next year include conducting an audit of existing digital security.
Copyright 2016 State House News Service