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March 2, 2009

Youth Justice Board secures comms system

AEP Networks links 30,000 workers across 200 locations

By Steve Evans

The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (YJB) has completed an 18-month project to build a secure corporate communications network, enabling 30,000 workers across 200 sites to share data and information.

AEP Networks installed secure crypto boxes at all relevant locations linked to a central hub, which can ensure restricted level security. It is hoped the new network will mean the YJB will be better able to make decisions regarding action to be taken, the company said.

The YJB’s previous system relied on fax transmissions and the hand delivery of files, which YJB CIO Mike Mackay said was not an efficient way of operating.

“It’s hard to achieve consistency when you are not dealing with real time data,” Mackay said. “Eighteen months ago youth justice used a mix of fax and physical communications which meant that risk data was not always available where it was needed.”

With the AEP system in place decision making within the organisation has been sped up and Mackay is confident the correct decisions are more likely to be made.

He said: “Now, with the network operating, the correct information can be where it needs to be to make sure that decisions on young offenders are appropriate and timely. Now we have established a secure network with all the data flowing through our hub which connects to the Government Secure Intranet (GSi). We have also built a management information system that means that we can look at trends and national statistics in more detail. This is incredibly valuable to us today and moving forward.”

Mackay suggested that the sensitive nature of the data that the YJB deals with meant the organisation had to take a different approach to securing its network. “When you have 20 or 30 thousand unconnected practitioners in 200 organisations trying to share data on young people who offend and you don’t have a massive budget to achieve it, then you need a radically new approach.  And, our approach is a radical departure for a public programme,” Mackay said.

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Mackay said that the new approach involved switching from using open information on individually secured networks to a system where secured information is communicated across multiple networks over the Internet.

He said: “We wanted to exploit cryptographic technology and the Internet to achieve a highly secure network that could be up and running quickly and keep cost down to a minimum without compromising security. AEP Networks is a central part of this system, delivering the security that we need to guarantee safe delivery of sensitive personal data.”

This project is part of the YJB’s Wiring Up Youth Justice programme, which began in 2006 as a project to explore how complex information-sharing requirements across hundreds of organisations could best be achieved.

The Youth Justice Board oversees the youth justice system in England and Wales. The organisation says it works to prevent offending and reoffending by children and young people under the age of 18, and to ensure that custody for them is safe, secure and addresses the causes of their offending behaviour.

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