Historically, cybersecurity hasn’t been a top priority for cities and towns. However, as more local government services move online, municipal managers are investing in new technologies and better policies to protect against attacks.
More than 40 American municipalities were hacked in 2019.
In 2019, the city of Baltimore was targeted by hackers—for several months, residents could not pay their water bills or traffic tickets online, and police officers had to write and submit warrants by hand. When the city government of Lake City, Florida, got hacked, it decided to pay $460,000 in bitcoin rather than try to rebuild all of its compromised systems, which would have cost significantly more. Clever bands of hackers know that local governments don’t have formal cybersecurity policies—and few employ enough trained experts to safeguard systems and train employees on how to avoid attacks.
There is a significant talent shortage—those who have the right skill set and experience to develop and implement municipal cybersecurity programs tend to take much higher-paying jobs in the private sector. If cities are committed to improving cybersecurity, they must carve out a budget to invest in qualified staff. Another avenue being tested in some cities is public-private partnerships. Whatever the approach, cities must act quickly: the longer they wait, the longer they’re exposing themselves to the damaging and costly threat of cybercrime.
Municipal ransomware attacks are now so lucrative that hackers are funding their own R&D to build more powerful tools. At their most organized and resourceful, they have the power to cripple critical infrastructure and wreak havoc in major cities.
Local city and town agencies, local business leaders, local universities and colleges.
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