The changing face of cyber security for governments

I have spent a fair amount of time working on government systems, and security has always been a priority.  But what I am finding interesting is the type of threats that they are now taking very seriously – effectively protecting against a cyber attack from a foreign state.  Of course the moment we start talking about this, we enter the realm of panic stricken and ill informed media articles.  My favourite article recently was in the Telegraph, that reported about the ‘China 'hijacks' 15 per cent of world's internet traffic’.

While sensitive data such as emails are generally encrypted before being transmitted, the Chinese government holds a copy of an encryption master key which could be used to break into redirected traffic.

Goodness gracious me ‘encryption master key’; all very secret spy, 007, and all that. However, like James Bond this would be a complete work of fiction…

The challenge for governments is that as they put more systems online, the more vulnerable they are.  Where governments have spent time creating single points of access, authentication and messaging systems for citizens and businesses; they are also creating single points for attack.  Taking down a public accessible system that disrupts tax collection, or stops citizens and businesses from authenticating would cause significant issues for a government.

At an architecture level, we need to look at distributed or disconnected systems.  We need to avoid placing key public facing government assets in monolithic data centres. One of the advantages that governments can gain from moving to the cloud, is this distributed architecture.  It makes it harder to attack.

But then again, what is the point?  China holds the master encryption key for the internet…