Digital technology has become an essential component of the modern world. Smartphones and tablets are increasingly dominating the daily course of life and the digital technology users are increasing manifold each day. The reliance on technology has picked up pace in every aspect of life; it promotes personal usage, industrial usage, commerce and banking usage and even government use. For the ease of the users, innovative apps are hitting the tech-market every day. These are created for the purpose of bringing about efficiency and user-friendliness among the tech-users. The market for digital technology is expanding day by day and a huge number of Americans use smartphones and tablets. The government has realized the importance of digital technology and is attempting to use it in the most effective way in order to reach out to as many people as possible and respond to their needs. However, with technology come risks. The security threats that wrap the technology today are unavoidable. Cybercrimes are increasing at a greater pace because technology allows access to personal information, location information, personal graphics and other forms of consumer data; all this allows for breach of information, theft, and online harassment and makes the consumers gullible to security breach and theft. Thus, along with improving the technology, serious security measures are to be taken a well to prevent consumers from falling into the crime nets. This will ensure that government is vigilant of the people and their protection and is taking steps to avoid cybercrimes. Furthermore, the concern of government doesn’t only include consumers’ protection; thus it also has to be wary of the threats that are posed to confidential government information. The security breach and leakages can result in the loss or violation of important official data and statistics that could prove to be harmful for the safety of the nation as a whole. Thus, the government has to be careful about the security of the digital technology and it must also strive to be responsive and transparent to the general population for the country’s progress.
Currently, the federal government is operating state-of-the-art apps that provide useful information and ease of access to a large number of users. By using these apps, government is providing useful services and information to the public more efficiently and effectively. This is a huge step in ensuring the prosperity of the country. President Obama is aware of the cyber threat that America faces currently and he expresses his will in eradicating this problem in order to allow free and safe access to American citizens to all the information they need (Whitehouse.gov, 2011). Presently, several of the most innovative and “best of category” apps are being operated by the Federal government that facilitate the users in numerous ways. Some of them are listed below:
HIV Care Services Locator – this one of a kind app tracks the newly diagnosed patients of HIV and extends care services to them. The deadly disease can affect any person, and it being a taboo issue among various parts of the country doesn’t prevent the government from walking an extra mile to help those affected by it. Otto (2014) states that “We've aggregated the content from five different agencies and brought it together in one database since the content and useful data for where to get care services from was in multiple websites and agencies”.
PTSD Coach – this very useful app provides immense help to the people suffering from PTSD. These may include military personnel or troupers who can gain aid from this app in overcoming the disorder. It also has in-built self-assessment modules that come in handy for the users. The Federal government, this way, makes sure that people are not deprived of help when they need the most.
FBI Child ID – this app is a must have for parents in case their child is in trouble. This app ensures that parents know the whereabouts of their children and can store important information about them. This can be useful in the situation of the child getting lost. The parents can then report to the relevant Federal department to locate the missing child (Kerrigan, 2015).
FEMA App – this app is extremely important in emergency situations. It provides guidelines of preparedness during an emergency and also provides help to people stuck in disasters or emergencies in finding assistance and recovery centers (Kerrigan, 2015).
These are some of the apps that have been built by the Federal government with the aim of providing best government services and useful information to a vast majority of the population. This marks the best category of apps which are extremely beneficial and maximizes social benefit (Kerrigan, 2015).
Considering the essential requirement of security systems in federal government apps, certain recommendations and architectural designs on security systems were studied. Security is an extremely significant dimension of any mobile app and without full-fledged in-built security systems, an app has no use. Thus, a few security requirements were proposed by the federal government for mobile apps. Firstly, there should be a person responsible for security infrastructure in app designing. Every stage should be monitored in order to build best security designs for the app. Moreover, the mobile platform must be thoroughly researched and the one being used with mobile operating system must be studied closely in order to adapt the code according to it. Protection of data on user’s device is extremely important. The information that is accessed by the mobile app must be stored carefully to prevent malware or data loss. Servers and cloud computing sources must be controlled and checked in order to prevent any data theft o loss. Passwords must not be stored in plaintext; hash function must be used in order to save user’s passwords in case of data hacks. Furthermore, continuous communication with users is imperative as feedback is very important for the app developer. It must be made sure that users are communicated with and proper changes are made to suit their needs. Apart from these security requirements, the federal government has following mobile architecture recommendations for ensuring security in the apps (Mobile Security Reference Architecture, 2013):
Mobile Device Managers: it manages the end device and aids in its configuration
VPN: it ensures users’ identity
Application Proxies: it congregates data for analysis
IPS: it provides reports and alerts on intrusions and provides defense against it.
Identity and Access Management Systems: these provide authentication and authorization
Data Encryption: it ensures that data at rest on the mobile device is encrypted if the device is stolen or lost.
There are certain industry recommendations regarding the mobile app security. According to Gallagher (2013), “the mobile apps are running outside of the confines of corporate networks and are accessing services across the public Internet. That makes mobile applications potentially huge security vulnerabilities—especially if they aren't architected properly and configured with proper security and access controls”. For this purpose, security recommendations were made for mobile apps design. Firstly, Gallagher (2013) suggests using API for security structure. It ensures protection of information and access controls combined with well-defined interfaces help in recognizing legitimate users of the app at the backend. API also enables storing, processing and using data according to classification. Moreover, use or store data only if it is encrypted and sensitive information must be restricted such as location information. Additionally, prevent from storing data in a readable or accessible directory or public shared storage; all of which can lead to violation of important information. Scheduled deletion must be sued for personal sensitive information to prevent data lying around in caches and preventing malware. Passwords must also be handled carefully and data must be secured with third party applications or services. User’s consent must be gained in order to store information. These and many other guidelines are important for app developers to consider for ensuring security.
The app our agency will develop will provide ease of access and best source of information to end users. Along with this feature, our agency will make sure that best practices are applied in ensuring security dimensions of the app and preventing any kind of cybercrime. Our app will focus on the government aspect and will provide access to public information to the citizens of the country. It will provide a platform to the users to voice their opinions and give feedback on government policies and programs which will the public departments gain an insight into the demands and will of the people. Moreover, public information will be able to the public that will help them scrutinize the workings of the government and assess the performance of it in delivering to the people. The app will be known as “TransApp”. The relevant public departments will be collaborated with in order to inculcate the right functions of the app. It will also inhabit the 5 best practices that we believe will move the government to consider it the best app. These 5 best practices will be the following:
Experts on technology will be employed who have the right knowledge of the current technological components and software. The interplay of both must be understood well, which will be the prime quality of these experts. Moreover, a sense of responsibility will be inculcated in these experts in order to deploy perfect security measures that will prevent serious security breaches that could result in harmful implications. Enough training will also be provided to them to further furnish their skills.
A framework of P4A’s will be deployed that will include: privacy, availability, authentication, authorization and auditing. These canons of software development will ensure proper security mechanisms are in place to prevent cybercrimes.
Thirdly, while providing the official information would go a long way in establishing good governance practices, breach of highly confidential information will become possible. Thus, along with providing official information to achieve transparency and accountability towards the citizens, it must be made sure that highly sensitive information is protected in order to prevent misuse of private information. For this purpose, classification of data will be conducted. It will determine the extent to which highly confidential information needs to be protected and controlled while storing, using and processing the information. A flow chart would help explain the classification of data:
Moreover, safe features will be incorporated into the design of the app. It will involve mechanisms that will ensure security of the app design. It can involve features such as: cryptography; it will ensure that algorithms are used which will prevent leakage and misuse of data. The design will ensure that implementation of security is carried out, credential system; it will handle the usernames and passwords of the users by decreasing the incidence of asking the users for them, permissions system; it will ask for permissions from the users which will protect sensitive data, so on and so forth. These and many other technical safe features will prevent mismanagement of user information and will ensure proper security checks.
Also, we will educate within and outside the agency about the best practices and how to build apps and software systems with best security features. It will enable us to employ a team of best members and will also help us impart knowledge to others which would go a long way in eradicating cybercrimes.
Council, F. C. (2013). Mobile Security Reference Architecture. Department of Homeland Security.
Kerrigan, H. (March 18, 2015). 19 of the coolest government apps.
Obama, P. (2011). Technology. Retrieved from www.whitehouse.com: https://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/technology
Otto, G. (September 18, 2014). 3 innovative ways agencies are leveraging mobile apps.
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