Cyber-Security Survey Shows Distrust Between Public and Private Sectors

Public officials also uncomfortable with social media use, according to global security think tank.

by / May 3, 2010

A recent survey indicates high levels of distrust between the private and public sectors when it comes to cyber-security, as well as a general unease using social media.

The poll, released Saturday, May 1, in conjunction with a worldwide cyber-security summit in Dallas, found that more than 90 percent rate cyber-attacks as serious threats, but the sides vary on who is doing enough to secure their networks. Seventy percent of government officials think private-sector networks are unsecure, while only 39 percent of public-sector officials think government networks aren't secure enough.

The poll, which anonymously surveyed 34 government officials and 103 business officials from the U.S., China, Russia and India, was conducted April 19 to 26 by the EastWest Institute, a nonpartisan security think tank.

Almost all experts agree that the private and public sector aren't coordinated enough to avoid nightmare cyber-security scenarios, and many have predicted a rapid increase in international tensions if such risks go unanswered, according to an EastWest Institute press release. They urged greater cooperation at the private, public and international levels.

"These results point to an urgent need to build trust, not only between countries but also between governments and businesses on a global level," EastWest Institute CEO John E. Mroz said in a statement.

Also, nearly three out of four government officials polled -- and about 60 percent of the public sector -- feel uncomfortable using social media to share information. Other online activities, such as online banking, shopping and transactions that involve sharing personal data like Social Security numbers, have slightly improved ratings, but still show levels of user mistrust.

Online banking and shopping are the highest-rated online activities among the public sector, with 81 percent of respondents saying they feel comfortable conducting such transactions. As well, 52 percent of government officials and 44 percent of business officials are comfortable sending confidential business or personal material via the Internet.

But when it comes to disclosing the most personal of information -- like Social Security numbers -- that comfort level dips: Sixty-nine percent of government officials and 84 percent of private sector officials say they're uncomfortable doing so.

"This survey demonstrates how much more we need to do to implement policies that keep pace with the breakneck speed of technological advancements," Mroz said. "We need private-public partnerships and we need international cooperation to make cyber-space safe and secure."