Government plans to halve number of security levels to simplify accreditation

The UK government is planning to half the number of security levels it uses internally from six to three in an attempt to simplify the accreditation process for suppliers looking to provide services to the public sector.

Andy Nelson, government CIO, was speaking at the Cloud Computing World Forum in London today and explained that the public sector was also hoping to have most services accredited in the lower security levels.

The government applies a Business Impact Level (IL) classification to suppliers to indicate the security level of their services. IL0 (protected) is the lowest level of security, while IL6 (top secret) is the highest. IL2 is often the minimum requirement for government services, for example, it is the minimum requirement for providers bidding for network contracts.

“Government’s heritage is to be very risk averse. This is because every time we slip up, the reaction from the public forces the government to respond by locking down," said Nelson.

“We are trying to move away from this. We have got a number of Infrastructure-as-a-Service offerings up on the CloudStore, but have we accredited those yet? No we haven’t. We have learned from [the G-Cloud] and we want to simplify the accreditation process.”

The government launched its CloudStore in February, which saw 257 suppliers signed up to the G-Cloud framework and catalogued within an online portal. The government plans to accredit each service offered only once and then any government body can reuse that service without going through the accreditation process again.

However, no services that need security assurance have been accredited yet. Nelson is hoping to make the accreditation process simpler by reducing the number of impact levels and by looking to use commercial certifications, such as ISO 27001.

“The government has a complex security marking scheme, there are six levels. We are trying to simplify that to just three to see if we can get most of government in the lowest level for most of its business,” said Nelson.

“If we can do that and then use commercial products and commercial accredited stamps like ISO 27001, we can definitely simplify things. We are trying to make the shift towards this but it’s not an easy journey.”

Google - which recently announced that its Apps had achieved ISO 27001 certification, revealed that it is looking to gain higher security accreditations that would enable wider use of Google Apps by the UK government. Google Apps is being used by the Cabinet Office’s Government Digital Services (GDS).

However, the Cabinet Office confirmed that GDS only uses Google Apps and Google Docs at IL0, which it said is relevant to the majority of its work.

If a higher security level is required, staff access products that have been given a relevant higher security level. Google has since said that it is exploring getting accredited to IL2.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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