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Local Municipalities are at Risk of Cyberattacks

Local Municipalities are at Risk of Cyberattacks

Ransomware attacks continue to dominate the cybersecurity conversion. While large organizations and industries garner headlines, the majority of ransomware attacks focus on smaller targets. Often, municipalities don’t have as many resources as larger organizations, so any disruption to their operations can be devastating to the people who rely on their services. Here’s how city governments can protect themselves. 

Why Municipalities are at Risk

Municipalities are a target of cyberattacks for the simple reason that if they are disrupted, the people who rely on their services may suffer. Cybercriminals understand that the more pressure they can place on your city or town, the more likely they will get the ransom. This is different from the pressure a bank or retail business may face if their customer's financial information may have been compromised. While it is certainly inconvenient for these businesses to have their client's data exposed, it pales in comparison to, for example, having your water supply tampered with or being locked out of the schedules of your public transportation.

What are Some Cybersecurity Weak Points That Municipalities Have?

  • A large amount of outside contact (vendors, agencies) who need access to their data. Let's look at examples of organizations being compromised. We see a familiar pattern: Third-party vendors are given unlimited access to sensitive data and do not follow practices such as access privileges or password management. Controlling who can access your network is critical because cybercriminals will try to use phishing attacks to access accounts. If they can access your vendor's credentials, they can create authentic-looking communication to fool your team into providing access to your data.

  • Cybercriminals know that small and medium-sized cities don't and haven't invested the resources needed to protect their data. If large enterprise-level organizations aren't investing in their cybersecurity, it is not difficult to understand that public-funded organizations aren't doing much better.

  • Due to the inherent nature of government, there may be considerable bureaucracy that can slow down the implementation of security measures and how quickly an agency responds to the attack. The longer an organization takes to respond to a cyberattack, the less likely it can mitigate it.

  • They are more likely to pay the ransom. Despite being smaller government agencies, municipalities can still be responsible for the well-being of thousands of people, and any disruption can have catastrophic consequences. Moreover, as many government agencies are subject to bad press and the people's will, they are more likely to negotiate with cybercriminals, even if it means paying the ransom.

How Can Municipalities Increase Their Cybersecurity

Municipalities need to develop a cybersecurity plan designed to face the issues that today’s cybercriminals present. Cyberattacks are only going to increase because they work for cybercriminals. One of the best steps you can take to protect your data is developing and implementing a cybersecurity plan. While there are some basic steps your team should take, municipalities should consider some additional measures due to the nature of their business. This plan should include:

Developing a Closer Relationship with Vendors
Spear Phishing (phishing using authentic-looking email) is effective because your team members aren’t familiar with the people they are communicating with. This lack of familiarity makes it easy for them to be fooled by an email that looks like it may be authentic. When you have a relationship with your vendors, your team is more likely to recognize when something seems “off” when they receive emails requesting sensitive information. Additionally, having a relationship makes it easier to make contact to verify that they did contact your team.

If anything, when a suspicious or overly urgent email comes in, your staff needs to question it and confirm its legitimacy with the sender. A quick phone call can save your organization thousands of dollars.

Communicate your Cybersecurity Protocols
While it is difficult to know whether or not other companies adhere to your practices, it is essential to manage expectations. When you explain why you do things and hold vendors accountable, they will likely follow your procedures. While not perfect, you reduce the chance that a vendor will expose your network to risk.

Have a Continuity Plan
Ultimately, the final and most important step your municipality can take is to ensure you have a backup and recovery plan in place. The one factor linking all organizations that fell victim to a ransomware attack is that they didn’t have a viable backup in place. Without a backup, these organizations had no choice but to either pay the ransom or lose their data. Your backup will give your organization the ability to defend itself against ransomware demands.

South Dakota Cities, Towns, and Public Works are at Risk of Ransomware Attacks

Cybercriminals are no longer just targeting banks, retail businesses, or other technology companies for passwords or credit card information. These bad actors understand that the more pressure they can put on an organization, the more likely they will get paid. This is why they have begun and continue to target organizations whose disruption can cause real problems for thousands if not millions of people.

If your municipality hasn’t considered yourself a target, then it is just a matter of time before you will be. Fortunately, it is not too late, now is the time to invest in a cybersecurity plan and protect the residents of your town from having their essential services disrupted. We have the experience to get your municipality’s cybersecurity up and running. Call 888-891-4201 today to learn more about our backup and recovery solutions and give your town or city the peace of mind that only comes if you’re sure your data is safe.

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