Cybersecurity is Not a Choice

More things in the world of today are connected to a network than ever before and being connected to the internet means that these connections are more vulnerable to cyberattacks.  Experts typically agree that there will be more than 50 billion connections by the year 2020. However, no one has figured out how to secure them all. Many of the products on the market require adequate support and a human support element.  The hacker only has to get it right once.

For local governments, it is imperative that they avoid cyber issues to degrade services, lower confidence or cost them financially due to an expensive recovery from an incident.  Ransomware, misconfigurations and carelessness can consume funds meant for critical citizen services.

The local government is also an attractive target for a cyberattack that can produce social and economic disruption.  This has an appeal for both cybercriminals and hacktivist. They are also the tip of the spear when the U.S. is faced with widespread attacks targeting local communities.  Local official had their first taste of highly publicized nation state cyber attacks in 2016 when election systems were hacked across the U.S. Some State and cities are understanding the threats much better now, but there are still local Governments who see cybersecurity as a choice.

Ask Atlanta about Ransomware

In one of the recently and notable example of a cyberattack on a municipality, the Atlanta Ransomware attack gained great attention.  On the 22nd of March, 2018, the city of Atlanta suffered from a massive cyberattack. A lot of the city’s programs and services were affected by service disruption and inability to access databases.  Months later, many databases are still inaccessible. The services affected include online services for constituents such as requesting utility services, public safety monitoring and paying bills online.  The attack was so severe that the city had to leave the computers and complete their work by filling in forms by hands. It was particularly notable because a number of services were affected at the same time.  Atlanta is a major transportation and economic hub for America. “All hands-on deck” does not even help an organization, and in this case, a city. In a leaked confidential report, it was estimated Atlanta’s taxpayers could end up paying as much as 17 million dollars because of the cyber-attack.  However, this does not take into consideration the loss of City productivity.

Holistic Approach to Cybersecurity

It becomes clear cybersecurity is very important and the advancement in technology calls for advancement in cybersecurity as well.  A holistic approach and culture of cyber security must be created and matured. This will require everyday citizens to protect themselves and their personal data. It will also require workers at all level of an organization to recognize they too share a responsibility to protect assets, systems and network from intrusion.  

The truth is no one is coming to save you.  People need to evolve with the changing digital world for the sake of protecting their way of life as well as more personally; their identities.  Together, people make up the Government in a democracy. And, together is the only way we will maintain our democracy.

Some Insider Threats Are Devastating

In local Government, the threat might be even greater.  In 2018 a County clerk in Wisconsin was accused of gaining unauthorized access to set-up an unauthorized checking account, alter records and deliver personal information to a former employee.  Authorities estimate more than 250,000 records were released. Now this might not sound as bad as it is for the victims. Now there are breach reporting laws, so the people whose data was lost will know.  However, the life the data takes on as it goes through the dark web and the most creative of individuals have an opportunity to exploit it, is not clear. Will it be identity theft, or will the dark web perpetrator use it for impersonation as part of a greater campaign?

Let’s hope that the criminal mind doesn’t gain access to an official’s information, impersonate them and gain additional access to influence an election and shutdown the court scheduling system.  Local governments are already financially strapped and the loss of productivity is a real cost they can’t afford to pay.

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