Municipal Cybersecurity Deserves Making a Federal Case Out of It

 In Cyber Security, IT Planning, Municipals

The US federal government spends billions of dollars on cybersecurity, but the Government Accountability Office (GAO) still finds significant shortcomings in their security measures. For state and local governments that can’t spend as much money as the federal government, the problem is equally big. In fact, because municipal government systems interact with federal systems, their cybersecurity is an important contributor to the security of national systems.

These smaller government entities are likely targets for cybercriminals, because they often lack the funds and expertise to protect themselves. As a result, municipalities are vulnerable to attacks including ransomware, which forced the Midlothian Police Department to pay a ransom and the Kankakee County Circuit Clerks office to rebuild their systems when they didn’t pay. Outside of Illinois, municipalities have suffered breaches that resulted in the unauthorized transfer of funds out of their bank accounts or the loss of their residents’ personal information, including social security numbers.

Besides the loss of money and data, attacks on state and local government systems threaten public safety. In addition to emergency response systems, critical infrastructure is managed by connected computers. Due to these many risks, it’s important for municipals to increase the attention they pay to their cybersecurity.

RelatedMunicipal IT Needs a Balance Between Security and Transparency

Multifaceted Problems Require a Multilayered Solution

The many potential avenues of attack on information solutions require multiple layers of defenses that address threats inside and outside the network and make all employees aware of their responsibilities for protecting municipal data systems. The GAO recommends a cybersecurity framework that addresses five function areas:

  1. Identify. Governments need to begin by identifying their critical functions and prioritizing the associated risks.
  2. Protect. Once critical functions and services are identified, government entities can implement security measures to reduce the impact of an attack on that service.
  3. Detect. Government entities need the ability to detect any attack in order to interrupt it and begin responding to and recovering from the attack.
  4. Respond. Agencies need to have a plan for responding to an attack once it’s been identified. This includes defining the communication channels and the mitigation plan.
  5. Recover. Governments should document the steps necessary to restore services disrupted due to an attack on their systems.

Related: Shared Services Let Municipalities Partner With Neighbors to Expand IT Capabilities

Multiple Sources of Support

The complexity of achieving an effective cybersecurity program means local governments should seek out and draw on multiple sources of expertise. The Department of Homeland Security offers support and services to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, including resilience reviews and advisors.

For additional support in implementing effective cybersecurity, small governments can look to information services providers such as Prescient Solutions, whose team members hold Certified Information Security Manager and Certified Information Security Professional credentials. The team at Prescient Solutions also holds certifications in the network and firewall technologies crucial to protecting information systems.

Through that expertise, Prescient Solutions works with its municipal clients to develop and deploy the tools and strategies needed to reduce the risk of a cybersecurity incident and to respond if one occurs. Our shared services model means even the smallest municipality can afford the highest level of information security expertise. Contact us for a free infrastructure assessment to identify your vulnerabilities and begin the process of improving your cybersecurity.

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