How to Balance Security with Citizen Engagement on Your Website

It goes without saying that strong enterprise-grade security is essential for your local government website—especially because hackers are increasingly targeting public sector websites with a flurry of cyber threats such as malware, ransomware, trojans and viruses. Even a relatively minor breach or infection can lead to thousands of dollars in investigation and remediation costs, not to mention fines and lasting reputation damage. 

Yet with this being said, on today’s digital landscape, citizens want and expect usability, speed, convenience, self-serve modules, and more. Indeed, as noted by Harvard Business Review:

In our connected, customer-centric world, [citizens] have come to expect that their needs will be met quickly and frictionlessly…Local governments, however, have too often offered a different experience: forms that have to be printed and mailed; payments taken only in cash or check; appointments that have to be conducted in person and in offices open only from 9 AM to 5 PM (or 9 AM to noon on Fridays). This experience increasingly clashes with what city residents have been trained to expect from the likes of Zillow, Kayak, and Yelp

The good news is that local governments do not have to sacrifice security in order to drive citizen engagement. Instead, they can focus on the following core aspects: 

1. Choosing a Reliable and Proven Website Hosting Partner

The number local government websites being hacked each year is on the rise. With this in mind, the right place to start is by choosing a reliable and proven website hosting partner. This allows physical separation between one network hosting the website, and another network that stores other critical infrastructure, such as financial systems, court data, phones, emails, and so on. Hackers who try to worm their way into the former so they can get to the latter will find themselves out of luck—and will typically back-off and move to the next target on their list. 

2. Using Multi-Factor Authentication

Local governments should also use multi-factor authentication to thwart man-in-the-middle attacks, which is when hackers covertly eavesdrop on end users and capture their usernames, passwords, and other confidential data. For example, phone-based out-of-band two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an additional—and possibly essentiallayer of protection that keeps hackers from snooping on staff members, and using their credentials to breach the website.

3. Mitigating DDoS Attacks 

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are on the rise, as hactivists, nation states, and other cyber criminals try to overload websites and effectively take them offline. Local governments need to proactively reduce the risk by incorporating pressure-tested DDoS mitigation strategies and processes, such as monitoring activity for unusual levels of traffic. 

The Key Takeaway: Usability Remains Optimized

The most important aspect about all of these security features, is that they do not diminish usability, or force citizens to jump through hoops to access local government websites (or web-enabled services). As such, citizens get the speed, convenience and functionality they want, while local governments get the peace of mind and security that they demand. Everyone wins.

Learn More 

To learn more, contact the team at CivicPlus today. We specialize in helping local governments balance citizen engagement and website usability, with robust 24/7 enterprise-grade security. Your consultation is free. Unlike other web development and technology firms, we specialize in serving local governments. We know the challenges you face—and we can help you overcome them more easily, efficiently, and affordably than you think.   

If you're interested in learning more about how to protect your citizens and your civic website without compromising on your civic engagement strategy, speak with a civic security expert at CivicPlus today.

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CivicPlus is the integrated technology platform for local government, working with over 2,500 local governments including municipalities, counties, and municipal departments. CivicPlus has been selected by Inc. Magazine as “One of the Fastest-Growing Privately Held Companies in the U.S.” since 2011. For more information about CivicPlus’ innovative product suite, including CivicEngage, CivicReady, CivicClerk, CivicRec, and CivicHR, visit