In brief

In brief

  • The government is investing billions in digital services—but to be successful, citizens must be able to trust that operations are secure.
  • Agencies must also work within increasingly sophisticated threat environments to prevent incidents that erode trust.
  • Federal leaders can take action "above" and "below ground" to ensure public trust in government platforms and systems.

Much discussion around government cybersecurity today revolves around the risk of losing sensitive data or perhaps even having data manipulated in harmful ways. But what sometimes gets lost in these conversations is something far more fundamental to government: citizen trust.

To be successful, citizens must be able to trust that the government has ensured digital operations are secure, safe and authentic. This becomes even more important as the government invests billions of dollars to deliver more services and execute more missions digitally.

Without that trust, basic government functions—whether taking a census, collecting taxes or managing health care—will be questioned and put in peril.

Next-generation services depend on citizen trust

On our national journey toward a more digital government, we are gaining steam—but citizen trust must remain high to continue the momentum.


of American taxpayers filed their returns electronically in 2017—up from 67% only a decade before.


million Americans conduct their business with the Social Security Administration online.


thousand Veterans Affairs patients received healthcare through telehealth programs in 2016.


billion dollars in federal grants are processed annually through, the government's central online repository and clearinghouse.

Unbelievable connectivity, unforeseen threats

The Internet’s designers never imagined the degree to which it would become embedded throughout the world’s critical infrastructures. Security concerns back then focused on preventing physical failures of the Internet—now, new capabilities present more complicated risks.

Protecting against sophisticated cyber threats

More than preventing physical failures of the Internet, today’s federal IT security concerns are data breaches and harmful manipulations of systems.

Expanded attack surfaces increase the difficulty

The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) is vastly expanding the digital attack surface, putting federal IT modernization efforts in jeopardy.

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Unless government leaders take effective action, there is a real danger that today’s federal IT modernization investments and efforts will be undermined by an erosion of public trust.

Building trust

To build trust with citizens, there are two broad categories in which federal leaders can take action to ensure that federal IT modernization efforts result in platforms and systems that are highly secure and resilient to cyberattacks.

Above ground

The first category includes standards and governance pieces, the more visible aspects of cybersecurity that occur "above ground."

Below ground

The second happens "below ground"—these are the technological and engineering steps that typically go unseen.

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Accelerating a digital trust turnaround

By taking action above and below ground, federal leaders can better protect federal operations, reduce the numbers and severity of cyber intrusions and help drive a trust turnaround for American citizens.

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