Information Security Policy for E-Government in Saudi Arabia

Introduction

In this research, I study the effectiveness of information security policies for e-government in Saudi Arabia because the integration of information and communication technologies in the activities of public organizations in Saudi Arabia has brought a significant change in information management. The government of Saudi Arabia is facing a wide range of security threats in terms of securing the information they possess.

 

This is because it is the custodian of valuable public and private information and it relies on the information and communication technologies for its e-governance policies, fiscal, and program delivery initiatives. These information security challenges can be prevented by implementing the best information security policies for e-government in Saudi Arabia.

Generally, e-governance can be defined as the use of information and communication technologies for both internal (with other departments) and external (with business and citizens) communication. Information security is considered to be one of the major factors for achieving effective e-governance in Saudi Arabia. Information management in e-governance is an important issue because of the need to carefully and securely communicate with other departments and other external clients (Alfawaz, May, & Mohannak, 2008).

The main concern is the need for effective management of information. However, due to the vulnerability of the system and the threats that it faces, the task of securing this information seems to be more challenging. Threats and vulnerabilities are factors that take (or stand to take) advantage of the loopholes in application software or operating system in order to gain access and change information or destroy it. This is as a result of multitasking through some electronic media. This form of communication opens the channel for both legitimate and malicious attacks either to peripherals, input, and output, programs or transmission media.

There are four categories of factors that increase the vulnerability of the data and information systems in Saudi Arabia (Alshboul, 2012):

  1. Human factor. This is a result of the rapid introduction of more sophisticated computers and service systems in Saudi Arabia, which makes it more difficult for people to operate, and as a result, tends to make mistakes and create vulnerability issues.
  2. Economic factor. This is a result of people's preference to save money by spending less to achieve some short-term results disregarding the long-term effects of their decisions. For instance, the RSA is a better encryption technique. However, some people prefer to use DES because it is cheaper than RSA (Stamp, 2006).
  3. Natural factors. Natural Factors, such as natural disasters, also have adverse effects on communications systems, and this makes them more vulnerable to attacks.
  4. Technological factors. Technological and network factors such as encryption algorithms in electronic transmission of information in Saudi Arabia (Alshehri & Drew, 2010).

The Relevance of Research

This research is relevant because it aims to study information security threats and vulnerabilities to e-government in Saudi Arabia, the best policies and the best way to implement them. This is because data management and transmission are becoming more complicated. Therefore, there is a need to increase the effectiveness of information transmission with the best security policies.

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Literature Review

Based on my qualitative research and from theoretical approaches and methodological research designs that have been used, I was able to understand the security requirements of e-government in Saudi Arabia. These include that: e-governance can be defined as the use of information and communication technologies for both internal (with other departments) and external (with business and citizens) communication. Information security is considered to be one of the major factors for achieving effective e-governance in Saudi Arabia. Information management in e-governance is an important issue because of the need to carefully and securely communicate with other departments and other external clients (Alfawaz, May, & Mohannak, 2008).

However, there are many reasons for adopting e-government in Saudi Arabia, which can be classified into four groups:

Management Purposes

The primary reason why Saudi Arabia is adopting e-government is to create effective management processes in the public sector. Some of the goals include to increase accountability and transparency in the public sector, to increase convenience and efficiency, to reduce corruption, to reduce the amount of human errors associated with a non-electronic government, to improve ways of sharing information and knowledge among public agencies in Saudi Arabia, to utilize advantages of information and communications technologies to improve the processes and operations of the public sector, etc.

Political Reasons

Political reasons for the adoption of e-government in Saudi Arabia include building trust between the government and citizens by increasing access to some general information, to increase participation of citizens in political processes, to facilitate democratic processes such as online voting, etc.

Social Reasons

Social reasons for adopting e-government include improving learning processes for citizens, enabling them to gain access to public information through a single portal using an Internet connection from any location at any time.

Economic Reasons

Economically, the adoption of e-government will bring about significant change in the following ways: it will provide cheaper, faster, and readily available online services, especially to remote residents. It will also improve interaction among businesses, industries, citizens, and the government, it will reduce costs of public services, etc (Al-Shehry, 2009).

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Based on the advantages and needs for the adoption of e-governance, the ISO 17799 [ISO 2005 a] and ISO 27001 [ISO 2005 b] standards for information security management provide a structural approach to information security activities, which are based on the code of practice and requirements of information technology security techniques. Before discussing a structural approach or policies, it is important to look at the key aspects or requirements of information security.

  1. Confidentiality

Confidentiality is the ability to ensure that information transmitted is only accessed and/or changed by authorized persons. Usually, this is done by ensuring that strong security control measures are applied to servers via encryption.

  1. Availability

This means that the required information is always accessible when needed. This means that the systems used to store and process information, communication channels, and security controls always function correctly.

  1. Integrity

The integrity of information means ensuring that it has not been altered or tampered with. The integrity of data transmitted between government-to-government and government-to-business applications can be ensured by using digital certificates and having strict control over access to paper documents that must be handled only by authorized officers.

  1. Authentication

This is the process of ensuring that only the right persons are involved in the communication process (e. g. via web or email), and at least two levels of authentication are always recommended. Some types of information that can be used for authentication are:

  1. Something one knows such as PIN codes or passwords.
  2. Something one has such as ID cards or magnetic swipe cards.
  3. Something one is, such as biometric features, which include fingerprints, voiceprints, retina scans, etc.

Non-Repudiation

Non-repudiation allows a person to legally approve the transfer or reception of some information transmitted. These requirements related to information security as discussed above provide the framework for the Saudi Arabian government to establish policies that are necessary to protect government information technology assets (Information Security Policy, 2008).

To achieve security goals of e-government in Saudi Arabia, the following elements have to be considered in my research:

Communication Services

These are services provided by telecommunication service providers, such as the Internet and text messaging, fixed and mobile voice services, etc.

Software

Software is a set of machine-readable instructions that the computer uses to carry out specific tasks. Software is divided into two groups: operation systems (such as Microsoft Windows operating systems) and application software (such as Microsoft Word).

Information Technology Equipment

This is a group of products or devices that have primary functions that are related to the collection, processing, transfer, and storage of data, such as computers, base stations, digital switches, fiber optic sheaths used for transmission, fax machines, photocopiers, etc.

Information Technology-Related Services

These are services provided by IT experts such as the installation of customized software, repair of IT equipment, etc.

However, the transformation of the capabilities of these elements has brought about an increase in the amount of information transmitted around the world within a short period of time. It has also changed the global nature of trade and investment because of the barriers to the transmission of information that exist (Al-Daweesh, Waverman, Coyle, & Souter, 2011).

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The Effectiveness of Information Security Policies

Considering the elements discussed above, my research will focus on the following policies that need to be put in place:

  1. Personnel awareness of security issues. Citizens and staff in the public sector should be educated about the threats and vulnerabilities of e-governance and should be informed about how they can be involved in fighting these security issues (Information Security Policy, 2008).
  2. Management and business processes that enable security processes. This could be done by establishing a framework that will serve as a control system for managing and monitoring activities of the government.
  3. Physical security requirements for information systems. The physical safety measures for information systems that need to be put in place by the Saudi Arabian government.
  4. Creating and maintaining business continuity plans. Better business continuity plans should be established for critical systems and networks to be continuously available. Design and development of such plan include:
  • identifying the plan structure and the major components needed;
  • developing backup and recovery strategies for data;
  • developing the plan scenario for executing the plans;
  • all escalation, notification, and plan recovery resources should be established.
  1. Monitoring for compliance. This describes requirements to verify the compliance of information systems with relevant regulatory, statutory, and information security contractual clauses (H?stland, Enstad, Eilertsen, & B?e, 2010).
  2. Reporting information security events and vulnerabilities to describe how and when to report security events and vulnerabilities.
  3. Communications and operations management. Management of all communications and operational procedures.

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Research Question

The purpose of this qualitative research is to develop information security policies for e-government in Saudi Arabia. The questions below will be further investigated in order to achieve the goal of this research:

  1. Why is e-governance in Saudi Arabia in its current state?
  2. What are the possible factors that might affect the e-government in the nearest future?
  3. How to improve e-governance in Saudi Arabia?
  4. How to implement the best information security policies?
  5. How reliable will these policies be?

Data Collection

I plan to use a deductive approach in this research in order to develop some policies that will help ensure Government information security in Saudi Arabia. However, the above-mentioned information security policies must go through some stages in order to be adopted. There are five stages of adoption of these information security policies.

Awareness

The government has to be aware of these policies first and then move to the next stage.

Interest

At this stage, the government has to develop an interest in the policies and then move to the next stage.

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Evaluation

The evaluation stage is when the government evaluates these policies to know if they are acceptable.

Trial

The trial stage is a testing period when the government has to try these policies.

Satisfaction

The final stage of the adoption process is when the government decides if it is satisfied with these policies. If satisfied with the policies, they adopt and assimilate them.

Adoption

When policies have been tested, they are being adopted as the e-government policies.

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