IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Seven Habits of Online Integrity

CIOs have a role in strengthening cyber-ethics.

Security-conscious professionals are often stereotyped as the equivalent of Dr. No in the first James Bond 007 film. The conventional wisdom: Innovative ideas must be submitted to the security staff to see if the new device or approach will be allowed. Unfortunately security gurus often retort with a (hopefully) polite "can't do that" or "sorry, it's against the policy."

In some governments, business customers view the CIO and possibly the entire IT organization as impediments to quickly implementing new consumer technologies. Gartner calls this trend the "consumerization of IT."

Taking a big step back, some public CIOs are developing a credibility problem that could become career threatening. What's to be done beyond a public relations campaign and adjusting that "no way" message to include more secure, "can-do" options?

Bruce Schneier, a popular security expert, recently declared the endless broadening of security now includes all aspects of human behavior online. Though some articles pronounce, "it's the data, stupid," personal and corporate reputations as well as public perceptions of government are also at stake. IT leaders need to help staff understand the impact of their online actions. As we continue to roll out security software to an endless list of devices, such as Web-enabled cell phones, virtual-world decisions are starting to show up in more areas of real-world office life.

Cyber-space activities are grabbing an ever-growing influence over home and work life. Virtual life intermingles with real life as never before, and the blurry distinction between the two will become even grayer as the 21st century progresses.

How can public CIOs help with integrity when government workers are online? As cyber-space rapidly changes over the next decade, we need a paradigm shift in thinking about employees' virtual life. With the ranks of mobile workers continuing to grow and a host of other cultural issues knocking at the door, we need to rethink how we interact with our biggest government asset and biggest network vulnerability: our employees.

Despite the benefits of Web-based collaboration, government employees face an exploding number of opportunities to engage in dangerous cyber-activities. In my new book, Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web, I coin the phrase "integrity theft" to describe this issue. I've seen some of the best and brightest lose everything - their personal reputations, jobs, marriages or families - by succumbing to these temptations. More often, individuals develop bad cyber-habits that cripple their career growth, harm the business or impact security in various unintentional ways. In reality, integrity theft works as the covert brother to identity theft; both can harm individuals, businesses and governments.

Rather than solely focusing on the minority of bad guys trying to break in, I believe we need to enable new ways for the majority of end-users to exhibit personal online integrity in this complex Web 2.0 world. In academic terms, I'm talking about addressing cyber-ethics - but for grown-ups. This includes training, but with more tact than traditionally offered, end-user awareness seminars.

A new e-morality is emerging in cyber-space that is being felt by governments and businesses nationwide. Public CIOs are perfectly situated to help their colleagues pinpoint relevant workplace issues and provide new pragmatic solutions that win back the hearts and minds of staff. We must help employees develop good online practices that I call the "Seven Habits of Online Integrity." I describe each of these habits in detail in the book. Here's a quick outline:

  1. Refresh Your Values in Cyber-Space
  2. Pledge Personal Online Integrity
  3. Seek Trusted Accountability
  4. Apply Helpful Technology
  5. Balance Online and Offline Life
  6. Practice Humble Authenticity
  7. Become a Cyber-Ambassador for Good
No doubt, there will always be a minority of bad apples among us. But spend more time with the good apples. Public CIOs and their technology staff need to do more than disable the bad. We need to be enabling the good.


On Oct. 20, 2008, Dan Lohrmann was named one of Governing magazine's Public Officals of the Year. You can read Dan Lohrmann's Government Technology blog here.


Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.