Minister Francis Maude installs his own Wi-Fi to beat “rubbish” Whitehall IT systems

Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister has had his very own personal Wi-Fi installed in his Whitehall office after becoming frustrated with the government IT system.

Maude has taken the step so he can easily connect his iPad and phone to the Internet and avoid using the "rubbish" and "clunky" the Cabinet Office systems, a source told The Telegraph.

The source added that there is frustration across the board from staff and ministers as the Cabinet Office has not been able to provide the quality of technology available at home "despite all our efforts".

However, although having his own Wi-Fi installed appearing to be a good idea for speed and accessibility, in terms of cyber security it is a "disaster waiting to happen", says Rik Ferguson, VP at security firm Trend Micro.

"While we might applaud Mr. Maude's desire to get the job done, his willingness to endanger the security of the parliamentary network, systems and data is incredible," Ferguson told ITProPortal.

"[The Wi-Fi] network segment will not be configured, managed or audited by security experts in the House of Commons, rendering them blind to the the risks it represents. It will almost certainly connect networks not designed to be connected, effectively punching a hole through numerous firewalls."

The news comes as the Cabinet Office, which is charged with supporting the PM and members of the cabinet, has announced the first changing of document security classification since WWII.

The plans are designed to allow ministers and government staff to view more documents on consumer gadgets such as tablets, so liberating them from the archaic government IT systems. Under the move, six current classifications will be merged into one "official" tag, while secret and top secret will remain as separate bands.

The government is currently scrambling to cut Whitehall's IT costs, with some work stations burning through £7000 a year, despite being outdated and slow.

"Whitehall uses a security classification system designed decades ago. We are changing that and introducing a new system fit for the digital age," said Maude in a statement. "It will speed up decisions, make it easier to share information and save hard-working taxpayers' money."

However while the adoption of BYOD and the use of off the shelf gadgets may be a money saver, it represents a huge security threat, adds Ferguson: "Consumerisation, along with Cloud and Cyber-attacks, is one of the three biggest challenges faced by organisations today.

"The challenges they represent are not insurmountable, but actions like those of Mr. Maude demonstrate, yet again, that it's not only the bad guys you have to worry about."

Image credit: Flickr (bisgovuk)