Government bodies still need to be PSN compliant, says GDS

Written by Rebecca Hill on 17 March 2017 in News

Public sector organisations have been told they still have to meet the common Public Sector Network assurance standards while work is carried out to move away from the network.

PSN-connected organisations will still have to be compliant - Photo credit: Fotolia

The Government Digital Service said in January that use of the PSN will be phased out, and that, “for the vast majority of the work that the public sector does, the internet is ok”.

At that time, GDS said that PSN “adds complexity for public sector organisations and our suppliers”.

It added that because in the future the government would need to apply basic application-level security regardless of whether the services were on the PSN, there were questions about whether the extra layer of complexity “is really helpful”.

However, Mark Smith, head of PSN compliance, has now issued an update to this to say that the public sector organisations connected to the PSN will still need to be compliant with the security standards set out.

The PSN compliance process covers an organisation’s security arrangements, policies and controls, effectively acting as an indicator that other government departments can trust the organisation in question.

“This need for trust won’t go away when government moves away from the PSN network,” Smith said.

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Smith said that even while the network was on its way out, organisations would still need to ensure interoperability and secure interactions.

“The good news is that PSN compliance going anywhere, certainly for a while yet,” Smith said.  

“The [Technology Leaders Network] agrees that - as one of the only recognised, externally accredited, cross-government common assurance standards - it needs to live on far beyond the end of the physical network.”

Smith said that GDS was looking at ways to “expand and reframe PSN compliance in a new context that, while retaining the assurance principles that are the basis of the existing process, will significantly improve the process”.

This will use methodology developed for collecting security data, allow users to make use of the historical data government holds and build on collaborations across the public sector.

However, Smith stressed that there was no timeline for moving off the PSN and that there was “quite a bit of work to do across the public sector to prepare for these changes”.

And – although he said that organisations updating or changing their services should move them to the internet and secure them with the best available standards-based approaches – in the meantime they needed to ensure they remained PSN compliant.

“That means you’ll need a valid PSN compliance certificate - and do everything you’ve been doing to get one and maintain it - for the foreseeable future,” said Smith.

He concluded: “We owe it to ourselves and the PSN community as a whole – who have worked hard to get where we are today – to make it better, and we'll be keeping the PSN community up to date as we go.”

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