In today's world, cyber security is of the utmost importance. Local governments are responsible for protecting their citizens and the critical infrastructure within their boundaries, yet they often face a barrage of cyber risks.
Every day, news of a cyberattack on a local government organization surfaces. From emergency response systems to educational institutions, these cyber-attacks on local government entities pose a serious threat and are becoming increasingly common.
Results from a survey of 14 large US local governments showed that more than half of respondents reported that they were constantly suffering cyber-attacks, with over 25% stating the assaults occurred on an hourly basis and 14.3% indicating the cyber-attacks occurred daily.
Why are local governments being targeted?
Local governments remain a popular target for malicious online activity due to two primary factors. Firstly, these organizations manage a wealth of confidential information, particularly personal identifiers. Secondly, their limited funds often prevent them from adequately staffing cybersecurity personnel or obtaining executive support for security initiatives.
When you include the two reasons and a large number of local governments spread across America - 90,075 to be exact - it creates an expansive, unprotected, and precious target for cybercriminals. This could seem like a golden opportunity for attackers, yet it does not have to be that way. Being forewarned about the types of cyber risks facing local governments can make all the difference to preventing them from becoming victims.
Data breaches are a major risk for local governments. In a data breach, an attacker gains access to sensitive data and can use it to steal information or damage systems. Data breaches can have a significant financial impact, as well as a negative effect on the reputation of the local government. To protect against data breaches, local governments must take a proactive stance to secure their data.
Local governments should first assess their data to determine which assets are most vulnerable to attack. This includes identifying the most sensitive data and the systems that store it. They should also determine who has access to the data and implement measures to limit access to only those who need it.
Local governments should also implement a data security policy that outlines the measures they will take to protect their data. This should include encryption of sensitive data, regular backups, and the use of strong passwords. Local governments should also regularly monitor their systems for potential breaches and take steps to mitigate any risks.
A type of malicious software that encrypts data and demands a ransom in return for unlocking it, ransomware is often used by malicious actors to extort money from local governments by encrypting or locking up specific data and demanding payment in return for the return of the data.
Local governments should first ensure that all systems are up-to-date with the latest security patches. Outdated software can be vulnerable to attack and should be updated regularly. They should also use antivirus and antimalware software to detect and block malicious software. It is also important to regularly back up their data in case of an attack. This will allow them to restore their data without needing to pay a ransom. They should also consider using a cloud-based backup solution, which can store data in a secure and encrypted environment.
Phishing attacks are reportedly responsible for about 90% of data breaches. This social engineering attack occurs when a malicious actor sends emails or other messages that appear to be from a legitimate source. The attacker typically attempts to collect sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers.
Local governments should first educate their staff on how to recognize phishing emails. The emails often contain spelling or grammar errors, or use generic greetings such as “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam.” They also often contain links or attachments that should not be clicked on. All employees should know to report suspicious emails as well as what to do if a malicious email is opened. Email filtering can also block malicious emails before they reach users.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are a type of attack in which an attacker floods a system or network with traffic in order to disrupt services. This can have a significant impact on local governments, as it can cause disruption to services or lead to the loss of data.
Local governments should first assess their networks for potential weaknesses. This includes understanding which systems are most vulnerable to attack and identifying any potential bottlenecks. They should also implement measures to limit the impact of a DDoS attack, such as rate limiting and traffic shaping, and consider implementing a DDoS protection system, which can detect and block DDoS attacks before they reach their systems. They should also consider using a cloud-based DDoS protection service, which can provide additional protection against attacks.
Malicious software, or malware, is a type of malicious software designed to damage or gain access to systems. It can be used by malicious actors to steal data, disrupt services, and damage systems. To protect against malicious software, local governments should first ensure that all systems are up-to-date with the latest security patches and carefully monitor their networks for potential malicious activity. This should include monitoring for suspicious activity, as well as any changes to system or network configurations. Local governments should also consider implementing a system to detect and respond to potentially malicious software attacks.
Weak passwords are a major security risk for local governments. Weak passwords can be easily guessed or cracked, allowing attackers to gain access to sensitive data. To protect against weak passwords, strong password policies should be implemented, and steps taken to ensure that passwords are secure.
Local government cybersecurity protocols should ensure that all passwords are at least 11-15 characters long and contain a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. They should also require users to change their passwords regularly and use two-factor authentication where possible.
Local governments should also consider implementing a password manager, which can help users to generate and store secure passwords. They should also educate their staff on the importance of password security and the risks of using weak passwords.
Taking a proactive stance to maintain cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is a critical issue for local governments, and they must take a proactive stance to protect their citizens, data, and infrastructure. Cyber threat prevention requires ongoing support and attention, by understanding the risks, implementing security protocols, and educating staff on best practices for security. ThreatAdvice offers local governments a comprehensive cybersecurity solution with the Breach Prevention Platform to maintain cybersecurity, and protect their citizens and the critical infrastructure within their boundaries.