Recent Incidents Highlight the Importance of Robust Cybersecurity Practices for Municipalities
Several recent events emphasize how important it is for municipalities to protect their computer systems against attacks.
In Atlanta, nearly all city services were impacted by a ransomware attack. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your data, making it unreadable; the hackers then extort money, offering to provide the decryption key if you pay the ransom. Typically they threaten to withdraw the offer if you don’t pay within a short period of time, leaving your data potentially permanently locked up. It’s not uncommon for victims to pay the ransom because recovering the data is too difficult. Unfortunately, it’s also not uncommon for victims to suffer a future attack as well.
Atlanta was fortunate that its 911 system was not affected by the ransomware, but these systems aren’t immune to attack. Baltimore was the victim of a breach that impacted critical public safety systems. Although the details of the Baltimore hack aren’t yet public, their computer aided dispatch system had to be taken offline due to the attack. The city had to provide dispatch services manually, which is less efficient.
In both Atlanta and Baltimore, city workers were forced to use manual procedures to work around the computer problems. While manual procedures are an important part of any business continuity plan, it’s even better to have strong tools in place to prevent hackers from successfully gaining access to your systems.
A modern cybersecurity strategy doesn’t rely on simple firewalls and antivirus software to protect systems. It’s important to develop a comprehensive protection strategy that protects endpoints as well as the cloud by integrating firewalls, antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, data loss prevention tools, multifactor authentication, and other tools to block unauthorized access to resources.
You also need a current disaster recovery plan, along with a business continuity plan. Those are the documents that will help your IT team get your systems operational and enable your employees to continue providing services to your residents. Be sure you test the plan and periodically retrain employees in the old, manual processes they’ll need to follow. These plans and procedures will help you in outages that aren’t caused by security breaches, too. Vermont had a 911 outage caused by human error around the same time the hacks happened in the other cities.
Prescient Solutions has worked with municipalities in the Chicago and Schaumburg areas for 20 years. We offer a complete range of IT services, IT consulting, and managed services, including cybersecurity and disaster recovery. Our fixed fees and shared services options make elite IT services available to every locality, no matter its size or budget. Contact us to learn more about how you can work with Prescient Solutions to protect your systems and your residents from cybersecurity attacks, network outages, and other IT problems.