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Cybersecurity Awareness for City and Local Governments
Cities are constantly at risk of cyber-attacks and various other threats. From hijacking device communications and tapping into security information to downloading citizens' personal information and siphoning critical data, there are various ways hackers can take advantage of weak IT systems.

With each passing year, cyberattacks are evolving. Because attacks are more complex and sophisticated, governments should invest in the future of their technical and policy solutions.

A report from ABI Research projects that of the $135 billion spent globally on cyber security in critical infrastructure in 2024, only 44% will come from smart city-related sectors such as Energy, Healthcare, Public Security, Transportation, Water & Waste. Due to resources and budget constraints, the overall cost becomes a burden.

Why is Cybersecurity Important for Governments?

As technology grows and evolves, the risk of digital hacks is also increasing. The Federal Government has been fending off thousands of cyberattacks from different sources every day. While some of these attacks are simple, some are extremely sophisticated and require robust cybersecurity systems.

Government agencies keep information about every individual in the country, their financial data, and information related to national security. A cyber-attack can put individual information at risk and put the entire nation in danger. Studies have shown that government agencies are far behind compared to other industries like healthcare and retail when it comes to cybersecurity. Some of the areas where they are behind include:

  • Proactively checking and updating security software
  • Providing secure software for end-users
  • Ensuring the security of IP addresses

The Importance of Investing in Cybersecurity Awareness

Cities and states must rely on reliable technology to run government functions smoothly. Almost everything is done online, from citizens applying for IDs to claiming incentives. As a result, cities and governments become vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches.

Protection of National Data
Both local and national governments store sensitive data digitally. This data could be related to defense plans, finances and budgets, citizen information, and so on.

Hackers can easily access this information if they don't have strong security systems.

Enables Governments to Provide Uninterrupted Services

Governments today provide many services through their official websites. A cyber-attack on these websites can disrupt these services and affect the lives of hundreds of citizens.

Safeguards Local Infrastructure
Local governments and cities rely on various software and hardware to strengthen their infrastructure. From computers, servers, sensors, modems, and processors, cities use multiple things to ensure the smooth running of various functions. Even necessities like water and electricity are monitored through IT infrastructure; cyberattacks can affect this infrastructure.

How Can Cities Make Cybersecurity a Priority?

With each passing year, cyber-attacks are becoming complex. As these attacks become more and more sophisticated, the need for efficient and reliable systems increases. Here are ways in which cities can make cybersecurity a priority:

Secure Strong Funding
As local and national governments get more digital, it becomes crucial for agencies to prioritize cybersecurity and make it an essential aspect of their IT budgets. Funding for cybersecurity should focus on two important factors: threat intelligence and situational awareness. Threat intelligence helps security agencies in cities and states understand the different types of cyber-attacks in the country against government agencies. Situational awareness is the process followed internally by government agencies to evaluate the risk level associated with its digital assets. Keeping aside enough budget for cybersecurity can help cities and states protect government data better. The budget can also be used to upkeep the security systems and networks.

Hire and Retain Talented Cybersecurity Staff
The stigma attached to government jobs is well-known, and the same problem also bleeds into the technology and cybersecurity field. Most city and state government agencies find it difficult to hire talented people to handle their cybersecurity needs because of the expense.

Collaborate with Open Data Programs
Open data teams interact with municipal departments regularly, and they support these departments by sharing data to measure performance and outcomes. Partnering with such programs will give cities an excellent opportunity to discuss all available data, its storage, and other critical aspects of its security. These teams can help government agencies release critical data proactively and securely from what data they have, how they use it, and how to protect it.

Build a Robust Response Policy

Any government official in charge of local cybersecurity should know the value of a robust response policy. While one approach may work when handling cyberattacks, it may not work in another. Cities need to have an in-depth pre- and post-attack plan in place. The city's pre-attack plan must include:

  • Pre-established relationships with third-party vendors
  • In-depth planning for varying scenarios and training staff to handle each of those scenarios
  • Educating and making employees aware of various security protocols
  • Business continuity plans in case of an attack

Post-attack policies should include:

  • A restoration plan to ensure all systems are up and running smoothly without disrupting business
  • A detailed investigation into the nature of the security breach

Improve Training and Culture to Handle Cyber Risks

Because hackers do not always directly attack local governments, they also target vendors and contractors that partner with them; cities must have a cybersecurity budget to proactively find technical solutions and train staff on detailed response plans. Local governments need to make sure that vendors also have plans and policies in place. It is imperative for local governments to proactively monitor current and future vendor policies.

In many cases, cyber-attacks come through simplicity, like phishing emails, spear phishing, ransomware, guessing passwords, and breaching systems through various entry points. More sophisticated attacks include brute force, zero-day, and distributed denial of service (DDoS).

Cybercriminals are good at what they do, and they are getting better by the day. Hacking does not require technical knowledge and cybercriminals continue to find ways to continue their "business." Cyberattacks often occur by various actors, including external actors (both individuals and organizations), malicious insiders, nation-states, hacktivists, and terrorists.

According to IBM Cyber Security Intelligence Index, 95% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error. If your team doesn't know how to identify and react to a cyber-attack, then the money spent on software may be wasted. With proactive training, local governments can ward off many cyber security attacks. According to KnowBe4's security awareness report, employees who were trained were 34% less likely to click on suspicious links or attachments. The report shows that ongoing continuous employee awareness training is more effective in mitigating cybersecurity risks.

Strengthen Your Security Posture

Possessing strong network security is critical for city and local governments. Performing internal and external network penetration testing and web app pen testing on your infrastructure will help uncover network and system-level flaws and breach abilities by showing you exactly what would happen if your system is compromised. Using an Advanced Adversary Simulation to test a company's security defenses helps determine if security strategies are set up properly to identify emerging threats and proactively warn teams. This includes but is not limited to misconfigurations, wireless network vulnerabilities, rogue services, product-specific vulnerabilities, weak passwords, and protocols.

Are you ready to see how well your organization's security strategy performs? Learn what makes us stand out amongst penetration testing service providers. Schedule your free virtual meeting with a RedTeam Security expert today at (952) 836-2770

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If you're interested in application penetration testing, you may find this article helpful when formulating your responses: Understanding Application Complexity For Penetration Testing.

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