How to innovate in times of rising cyber attacks

Friday - 11/5/2010, 6:13pm EDT

Mark Malseed, Executive Editor and Co-Founder, OhMyGov Inc.

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

How can agencies continue to innovate, especially at a time of rising cyber threats?

According to OhMyGov, cybersecurity incidents increased 400 percent from 2006 to 2009. The good news is there have not been major data breaches in the last year and a half.

Cybersecurity "is a matter of a social science as well as a technical science," said Mark Malseed, executive editor and founder of OhMyGov Inc., and the author of "The Google Story," in an interview with In Depth host Francis Rose.

Malseed said agencies need to develop a "layered solution," from the top-level executives to people at their desk who, with a click, can allow an attack to happen.

At the same time, agencies should not "overly stress" their employees so that they are reluctant to put information online.

"That's the traditional problem of government -- not enough information sharing," Malseed said.

Government is seen as a late adopter of technology, but when it comes to social media use, agencies have been successful.

"Agencies realize they can control their messages to either other governments or directly to citizens by making using of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but also things like Slideshare," Malseed said.

The next step is to take the data -- such as posts on Facebook and Twitter -- to predict future outcomes. Malseed said OhMyGov was able to predict the midterm election outcomes based on social media activity.

"What we identified beforehand came true," he said. "We saw the House was going to be a big win for Republicans, the Senate not a win but gaining some seats back, and regionally we found in the Great Lake and Mid-Atlantic .... swung back. We saw that in the social media data."

To continue to innovate, agencies might be able to take lessons from the private sector.

In the early years of Google, engineers were allowed one day a week to work on any project they wanted to. From a taxpayer perspective, this idea might not apply to government where a product must be tested and meet specific requirements before it can be released.

What agencies can do is move toward a "fail fast" concept. "Push services out the door, work collaboratively with citizens with other governments to improve them, and don't expect on day one to be perfect," Malseed said.