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State and City Governments Feel the Pain of Compliance

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August 18, 2014
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Feeling the burn is only a good thing when you are working out. When it comes to meeting compliance regulations for storing sensitive information, pain is not ideal.

Like most private businesses, local and state governments accept, process and store information digitally. Citizens can pay their taxes online; register with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV); pay tickets, fines, and utility bills; register a business; and apply and pay for a permit. As a result of this flow of digital information, government agencies must adhere to the regulations that govern the information they collect.

While the responsibility for compliance ultimately rests on the individual agency, a cloud service provider (CSP) or third-party data center can offer a secure infrastructure that assists in operating and storing sensitive data and in meeting regulatory compliance.

Mandated regulations vary by industry and application. But at their core, they all deal with privacy and security. Privacy defines who can access stored personal information and how they can use it. Security identifies the controls, processes and systems that are in place to prevent privacy violations. The need for privacy and security with public information is key as government sectors continue to venture into electronic venues for handling data.

Currently, government agencies are linking themselves to one another across disciplines and state lines. Law enforcement agencies share sex offender registries, most-wanted lists and Amber Alerts on abducted children across borders.

The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS), a large database of sensitive, personal information including fingerprint records, criminal backgrounds and sex offender registrations, offers a wealth of private information. This sensitive data is governed by the CJIS Security Act, which regulates how this information is handled and used by various entities such as law enforcement and public safety, the legal system and correctional facilities.

As government agencies build new databases and seek to share information among various offices and branches, security and privacy issues will continues to surface. Further regulations will undoubtedly be put in place. State and local governments must recognize that state-level privacy laws vary from state to state, and some states’ regulations are more complicated than others. To add to the confusion, agencies are not governed only by the state in which they operate. As information is collected from other states, agencies may need to abide by the regulations of those states.

This may all sound overwhelming – and some of it is best left to legal experts – but a secure CSP or data center can offer some relief around various regulatory challenges. Many of the more reputable providers are equipped to deliver a high level of security within their data centers and cloud infrastructures. The better among them generally offer multiple levels of authentication – through biometrics, 24/7 staffing, access cards, security cameras and multi-digit access codes – to access their facilities. Private space that houses the cabinets or cages is locked down. Logical security can also offered through a secure host infrastructure that is managed by a trained operations staff.

Peak 10, an IT infrastructure, cloud and managed services provider, undergoes rigorous, independent audits each year to ensure its compliance with various regulatory demands. Peak 10 also offers HIPAA- and PCI-compliant cloud solutions that can ease the burden on agencies seeking to meet Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requirements by providing a secure environment that can accommodate the agency’s unique needs. Through a host of managed services, including Dedicated Managed Firewall and VSP Service, Managed Intrusion Detection & Prevention System (MIDPS), and Managed Unified Threat Management (UTM), Peak 10 can further assist customers in developing compliant solutions.

“Peak 10 has been able to work directly with a number of local government entities and with organizations that support large federal agencies,” says David Kidd, Director of QA and Compliance at Peak 10.  “These are people who understand the importance of a strong compliance program and appreciate having a partner who ‘gets it’ and will help shoulder some of the burden of compliance in the government sector.”

Third-party providers can also offer a number of security controls and services to support compliance and provide an appropriate level of security. For example, a cloud-based disaster recovery (DR) solution can help an agency meet compliance standards around system access – even when a failure at the production site occurs.

As state and local government agencies continue to delve into the digital world, the realities of regulatory compliance will remain an integral part of their data collection, usage and storage operation. It does not seem likely that these regulations will fall to the wayside. While compliance with any number of these relevant mandates falls squarely on the shoulders of the government agency, a secure, compliant provider – like Peak 10 – can be the first step in easing the pain.

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About Peak 10

"Our values are the foundation for everything we do at Peak 10, and are ultimately what enable us to earn our customers' business and their trust."
David H. Jones,
Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest