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Local Government Cyber Security Awareness Low

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Cyber security awareness among the UK’s local government is low, despite it being one of the most prominent threats they are facing, new research has found.

Security firm Sophos quizzed over 2,700 people who work for the police and local government and found their awareness and knowledge of cyber security issues to be concerningly low. When asked if they thought their organisation had suitable IT defences in place, more than half of respondents said they did not know, showing a lack of engagement in the subject.

Furthermore, even those in the know lacked confidence in their organisations’ abilities to defend against cyber attacks, with only 41 per cent of respondents stating that they think their IT defences are up to scratch.

The researchers point to budget cuts – which have been experienced by 90 per cent of police units and local governments in the past 12 months – as a potential reason for this gap in awareness and confidence when it comes to cyber security. Indeed, 67 per cent of local government and police organisations have cut jobs over the past year, while 63 per cent have seen a cut in overall front line services.

The tightening budgets are having a knock-on effect for IT teams, with organisations having to cut back on their IT spending. Positively, the majority of respondents (62 per cent) revealed that they are adopting a more collaborative approach and sharing resources, which is an effective way of combatting this problem.

When discussing what is driving change in IT security, the most commonly cited factor was the demand for greater mobile and remote working (59 per cent), while the second biggest driver in cyber security was increased awareness of data security thanks to high-profile security breaches (46 per cent).

James Vyvyan, regional vice-president of Sophos UK & Ireland, commented: “With cyber crime at an all-time high and public sector budgets reducing year on year, it’s more important than ever that organisations maximise the resources available to them.

“There is a clear trend towards local authorities partnering with neighbouring authorities to increase and implement shared services. This collaborative approach is certainly helpful in the fight against cyber crime. Our research indicates that local authorities and police may also be missing the opportunity to consolidate their IT and security technologies, which can deliver further savings, helping to protect jobs and frontline services.”

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