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PSN gets encryption for higher security levels

Caroline Baldwin

An encryption service has been announced by the Cabinet Office that will enable public sector staff to share information at the IL3 security level over the Public Services Network (PSN).

The new Inter Provider Encryption Domain (IPED) will allow information at the IL3 standard to be sent across the PSN, where previously only the less risky, lower-rated IL2 information could be shared.

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This is the next step on the transition on to the PSN from old GSi/GCSX Government Secure Network infrastructure. The Cabinet Office will deliver higher levels of security and encryption for information at IL4, IL5 and the highest IL6 in the future, but the transition complete date has not been set.

The government says the new encryption service will allow greater efficiency and collaboration in public service delivery, especially in areas delivering citizen-focussed services such as criminal justice and social services.

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “As part of our long-term economic plan, the Public Services Network is creating a single network for government IT. This is ensuring information can be securely and easily accessed by service providers wherever they are, ridding us of the cost and inefficiency of multiple, incompatible networks, and improving delivery of public services.”

The IPED – developed by Cabinet Office and industry specialists – will comprise services from at least six PSN-compliant service providers, the first of which include BT and Vodafone.

At the end of last year, Computer Weekly reported that one London council was just hours away from being disconnected from the PSN because of failure to comply with “highly prescriptive” security rules issued by the Cabinet Office.

Being disconnected from the PSN could mean a local authority is unable to fully carry out its public duties. Connection to PSN is required for public services that are centrally and locally managed or delivered, such as housing benefits. If a council lost connection to PSN, it would be unable to exchange benefits data with the Department for Work and Pensions, for example.

But conversations between Socitm and the Cabinet Office have been ongoing over the compliance issues for local government.

Socitm has announced that the Cabinet Office has commissioned a Secure Solutions Advisory Group (SAG) to look at the PSN compliance issues on a weekly basis. In the future, the SAG will help with future changes to PSN compliance as the technology solutions mature and risks change.


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