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Security considerations for government technology projects

Security is especially critical for public sector agencies, and as the pressure to become more digital increases, it’s necessary to make security a core aspect of implementation.

Below, we summarize critical considerations to help guide your government software implementation project.

Clearly Define the Project Objective

It doesn’t sound security-related, but articulating your reasons for taking on a project helps you focus on what matters.

Perhaps you’re undergoing the project because another department at your agency needs your department to share data with them in a way your current system can’t.

By putting that reason in writing and ensuring everyone agrees, you’re more likely to choose a solution that addresses that issue.

If you completely overhaul your system when a simple plug-in or customization would work, you risk breaking things and causing unnecessary security issues.

Outline Regulatory Compliance Requirements

As a public sector organization, you know regulations are a big deal. There are many requirements to protect privacy, make services accessible, and give access to information.

While the list of regulations is long and complex, compiling it from the start sets a solid foundation for your project.

Implementing a software solution with these rules in mind prevents the headaches of having to fix or change things after the fact. In addition, if you don’t follow regulations, you’re at higher risk of litigation and exposure to unintended security loopholes.

Prioritize Project Management

Having a good project plan is one thing; having a well-executed project is another. Engaging a solid project manager may be your most effective security measure.

From keeping team members on schedule to making sure everything’s ready when needed, a project manager ensures all things are considered.

Your project manager must champion security and embed it as a critical principle from day one. Regular project update meetings should be an opportunity to remind everyone of security requirements and keep them top of mind.

Bonus tip: The project plan should include update meetings with the highest-level personnel possible (e.g., department heads and key decision-makers). These meetings can be less frequent but are extremely valuable for ensuring everyone’s needs are met.

Engage Key Personnel

Just as it’s valuable to keep high-level personnel in the loop, it’s critical to include the right individuals on the implementation team.

You need a “project owner” who knows all the project details. They should be the main contact with the project manager.

The project team should include subject matter experts who can ensure requirements are being tracked and met and at least one person familiar with your internal security requirements and setup.

Every team member involved in the implementation should understand the project’s security and regulatory requirements, so you don’t miss any steps and put your security at risk.

Finally, more than one person on your team must be familiar with the project and the technology being used. That way, if someone leaves the organization, they aren’t leaving with critical information like passwords or knowledge of addressing issues as they arise.

Test Early and Often

The earlier you start testing, the more likely you are to catch issues before they become costly mistakes.

If, for example, you’re implementing an off-the-shelf solution that must be configured or customized to meet your needs, use the system without the customization first. As the customizations are made, you can catch the real issues because you’ll better understand how the system works.

Another example is if you’re implementing a permitting solution. Before you set up multiple permit types in the system, implement one, test it, and use what you learn to inform the rest.

Have a testing plan before the project begins and identify several points along the way where you’ll test.

Emphasize Training

Plan for training and involve users in the project as early as possible. That’s because a well-trained user base is less likely to misuse the system or cause unintended security breaches.

Do your users know how to use the single sign-on feature? Can they save and share data in the correct format? Do they understand privacy protection policies?

A great tip is to involve your “users to be” in testing the solution. By running through test cases, they’ll learn from experience. A benefit is that they can identify issues early so they can be corrected or included in the formal training.

Choose a Secure Hosting Solution

The rubber meets the road at the server level, where all your data is processed, stored, and accessed. While you should have a good security policy, a secure hosting solution is also critical.

Cloud hosting is becoming more popular, and the pressure to move to the cloud is increasing. Fortunately, cloud hosting can be your most secure option.

Leading cloud hosting providers (e.g., AWS, Azure, and Google) offer robust security measures overseen by teams of dedicated security experts constantly working to keep the servers safe, secure, and up to date.

Keep Up With the Latest Upgrades

While your hosting provider (or IT team, if you’re hosting on-premise) keeps your server technology current, you should also always be using the latest version of your software solution.

It’s common for unexpected vulnerabilities to be discovered in applications and quickly attacked by hackers. Software companies try to stay on top of these and release patches or upgrades to fix the problems.

By staying up to date, you reduce the risk of attack or data loss. As a benefit, this often means you can access new features that make your software more valuable.

Choose a Trusted Vendor

This list includes just a few considerations you should make when implementing a software project. Depending on the size of the project, the list could be much longer! (If you want to be more technical, here’s a list of privacy design principles.)

That’s why it’s helpful to engage a trusted vendor or consultant. They help you determine what’s required and then ensure your project is well run and the eventual product is secure and meets your requirements.

Vision33 has been in the government technology consulting space for over 20 years and has worked with dozens of public sector clients. To discuss your IT project needs, please get in touch!