Local governments struggle to stay ahead and combat cyberattacks, even ones that are considered to be increasingly-common. Now, with the recent wave of cyberattacks plaguing municipalities, one thing is glaringly clear: the cybersecurity practices of local governments are far more reactive than proactive.
For example, in a recent survey conducted by CityMetric and the International City/County Management Association, more than 50 percent of survey respondents are admittedly unprepared to detect or recover from cyberattacks.
There’s no time to despair, not with cybercriminals constantly raising the power and sophistication of their attacks. So, here’s what leaders at the local level must do to safeguard their infrastructure and citizens’ data.
Develop a Proactive Mindset Around Monitoring
While many local governments have significant ground to cover in terms of protecting their infrastructure to combat cyberattacks, those that proactive monitor threats take a big step in the right direction. They can thwart potential issues before they become a significant problem. In order to bridge the gap, local governments must consider the critical importance of monitoring.
Monitor external threats
External threats come from malicious actors from outside your organization They use a variety of methods to locate and exploit gaps in your data security defenses. Some of these methods include:
- Malware: A type of software used to infiltrate and obtain unauthorized access to a computer.
- Malvertising: Online advertisements embedded with malware.
- Phishing: Where cybercriminals use emails that appear legitimate (i.e. coming from a reputable company) to lure recipients into divulging sensitive information.
- Denial of service (DDoS) attack: A malicious attempt to disrupt normal traffic of a targeted server, service, or network by overwhelming the target or its surrounding infrastructure with a flood of internet traffic.
- Ransomware: Malicious software created to block computer access. A monetary ransom is generally required by the attacker in exchange for returned access to the victim.
Hackers don’t keep normal business hours. They launch cyberattacks 24/7 from outposts all over the world. That’s why continuous monitoring of external threats is key to increasing data integrity and reducing the risk of a cyberattack. One data breach or ransomware event will cause significant disruption—and possibly put an organization out of business.
Monitor internal threats
Internal threats are attacks that occur within the organization. They are highly problematic and can potentially give hackers unbridled access to sensitive data. Internal threats by malicious actors within the company, however, are quite rare. Instead, incidents typically originate from poor data security practices, such as weak passwords and unsecured device usage. Organizations can protect themselves by using:
- Password managers: Tools that reinforce internal security by ensuring strong passwords. LastPass is an example of a password manager.
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA) service: A form of security that requires more than one method to authenticate a user’s identity. Okta is a leading MFA service provider.
Continuous monitoring is important
The biggest takeaway is that local governments must monitor continuously to effectively safeguard their sensitive data. Ideally, a security operations center (SOC) with the required people, processes, and technology enables municipalities to know when and how often threats occur. However, gaining the comprehensive value of a SOC is easier said than done.
It’s not that leaders at local levels object to upgrading their cybersecurity protocols. The reality is local governments face certain barriers to entry when it comes to building an internal SOC.
Why Adequate Responses Are Challenging
Recovering from cyberattacks — especially ransomware — is a struggle for local governments. Forty percent of survey takers said their response is poor (or worse) in when they suffer a cyberattack.
Considering that governments houses data and conducts activities related to real estate transactions, court tickets, utilities, and many other services, cyberattacks not only expose personal data, but disrupt the ongoing activities of the city under attack.
A preemptive strategy is vital to secure data. But being prepared to handle and thwart attacks is just as important. Unfortunately, there are a number of obstacles that prevent local governments from accomplishing this.
Lack of personnel
Local governments and municipalities lack the budgetary resources their federal counterparts possess to hire elite cybersecurity professionals. While funding is a barrier, lack of adequate personnel is also a problem and more than a third of survey respondents cited this issue for not practicing better cybersecurity. The cybersecurity skills gap is real—and it’s not closing nearly fast enough.
Primitive or no infrastructure
Without the proper personnel, running a fully functioning SOC is difficult. Without the necessary infrastructure it’s impossible.
There is no quick fix, which often makes outsourcing a necessity.
SOC-as-a-Service for Local Governments
Local governments need a strategic solution that provides the necessary support and data protection while adhering to restrictive budgets and personnel shortages.
Partnering with a trusted SOC-as-a-service provider gives government entities the solution they need. Find out how Arctic Wolf’s SOC-as-a-service can improve cybersecurity for local governments by reading this free comprehensive guide.