Cost and Challenges with E-Government

This entry is part 5 of 18 in the series Human Aspects in Cybersecurity

There is no doubt that E-Government provides conveniences today that many take for granted, however there is an underlying cost for these services.  First of all, government sites are attractive targets for malicious activities, whether or not this involves deliberate disruption of service, or the stealing of sensitive information for profit.  Bidgoli (2006).  The availability, integrity, and confidentiality of information therefore are all very real concerns when providing government services online for individuals and businesses.  For the individual user, security and privacy concerns with regard to their personal information are paramount.

Individual or informally organized hackers, non-state organizers and foreign state-sponsored threats are continuing to increase as more sophisticated systems are made available online.  In order to address these threats, several laws have been put in place over the years.  One of the larger pieces of legislation, the Federal Information Security Act (FISMA) was enacted in order to require “all government agencies to develop security management systems.”  Vacca (2010).  In order to comply with FISMA, the agency must perform a risk assessment to determine what controls will be needed and then implementation of these controls must be carried out.  FISMA provides a comprehensive framework which is mandated by government agencies their contractors.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has documented recommended practices dealing with incident response handling for FISMA compliance.  The Federal Desktop Computer Configuration (FDCC) was brought about to enhance protections on government desktop computers.

Even with all of these mechanisms in place, there are still ever increasing threats facing government web applications.  The cost of adequate protection can be high, depending on the level of sophistication of the systems, however the opportunity cost of successful intrusions is too high to dismiss and federal agencies will need to continue to keep on top of their security defenses.  Earlier literature suggested that the cost of e-government did not balance the benefits it was supposed to provide.  Moon (2002) published an account that summarized at that time e-government, still in an early stage, had not brought about the benefits of cost savings and downsizing in larger administrative processes.  In more recent years however it can be argued that the benefits e-government has brought cannot be ignored just because of the challenges that exist.   Many have come to rely on these services.  The current Administration are very much focused on the new Digital Government Initiative, and as part of that initiative, security and privacy play large roles.  E-government is here to stay, therefore the importance of protecting these systems will continue to grow as the threats surrounding them increase.


  1. Bidgoli, H. (2006). Handbook of Information Security. Bakersfield, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  2. Moon, M., J.  (2002). The Evolution of E-Goverment  among  Municipalities: Rhetoric or Reality. Public Administration Review 62(4): 424-33.  Retrieved from:
  3. Whitehouse (2012).  Digital Government.  Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People.  Retrieved from:
  4. Vacca, C (2009).  Computer and Information Security Handbook. Burlington, MD: Morgan Kaufmann

Image Credits: Photo by Isis França on Unsplash.

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