Preventing Data Breaches In State and Local Governments

Category: Data Security
Type: Blog

Hackers have made themselves known to businesses all over the world. Now they’re taking on a new challenge. That’s to breach the data systems of state and local governments.

These breaches are becoming more common and they’re very costly. It’s not just large cities like Atlanta that have data breaches. The small Village of Key Biscayne in Florida was recently attacked.

IT professionals must assume that there will be attempts by hackers to break into their networks and steal valuable data or hold it for ransom.

Read on to find out how to prevent city and state data breaches.

Perform a Security Audit

The first thing that needs to be done is to evaluate your networks and systems. You want to be able to identify where your systems are the most vulnerable and address them as soon as possible.

For example, a cybersecurity audit was conducted in Oregon. It revealed that the state lags on basic cybersecurity measures.

These audits should be done on a regular basis as security threats evolve.

Classify Important Data

One reason why data breaches occur is that data is treated the same in large organizations, including state and local governments. You want to have a one-size-fits-all data policy that treats all information the same way.

The reason why you want to separate and categorize what’s important is that you can spend the appropriate number of resources to keep that data secure.

Take the time to go through your data and know what needs the most protection. Information that needs to be kept confidential will need more protection while information available to the public require fewer resources.

Your next step is to log where the data is kept. For example, you may have confidential information on several servers and on a backup drive.

You also need to log who has access to that data. At that point, you and other stakeholders in the government can identify who needs access to data and who doesn’t.

Develop a Security Policy

Once you have your data categorized, you can then develop a security plan and policy around protecting the information.

You’ll want to start by implementing three levels of security controls. These controls are geared towards preventing, detecting, and responding to attacks on your systems.  

You’ll want to address issues such as the use of mobile devices to access critical information. How are vendors and contractors treated and what do they have access to?

Your security policy needs to address these issues, but it shouldn’t be so restrictive that employees can’t do their jobs. Get input from employees and other stakeholders as you’re developing the policy.

Train Employees

You can have the best security controls and take all of the steps to secure your systems. Your networks are still vulnerable because of human error.

Employees are the cause of about 60% of data breaches. If you want to know how to prevent city and state data breaches, you have to include employees in your plan.

Training employees and elected officials on cyber threats like ransomware attacks can create a culture around IT security. It can also go a long way to prevent attacks.

Employees are often targeted by hackers because they know that it works time and time again. The more you arm them with information and education, the more attacks will be prevented.

It’s also important to note that education isn’t a one-off thing. Cybersecurity education must be an ongoing part of employee training.

Plan for the Worst

It’s good to have a security strategy that focuses on preventing data breaches. You also have to plan for the worst-case scenario. IT professionals are shifting to take a “when it happens, not if it happens” approach.

You should do the same. You can take every measure possible, but one unintentional click can bring your systems down.

Do you have an incident response plan in place to respond to the data breach? You’ll need to be able to respond the moment an attack is detected. The ThreatAdvice Incident Response Team can offer assistance immediately to remediate a data breach.

You need to think through every type of scenario and attack and have a plan for each one. You should have one plan for a ransomware attack since this is a very common threat.

The response plan may be across a number of different departments. You’ll want to create a crisis response team within the organization. That will help you and your IT team respond quickly.  

You’ll need to identify people who need to be informed of the data breach. For example, who will contact law enforcement agencies, officials at your agency, and the public?

These are things that you need to consider in your response plan.

Perform Regular Updates and Backups

As an IT professional, you know that this is an important step in keeping your systems secure. Yet, you also know that there’s a big difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it.

Sometimes, you get pulled away from these important tasks to work on high-priority projects. You should make backups a high priority as a way to protect your data in a ransomware attack.

How to Prevent City and State Data Breaches

IT professionals are under more pressure than ever to secure the networks of state and local governments. Data breaches are a major cause for alarm as they are forcing governments to stretch their budgets and give thousands of taxpayer dollars to hackers.

Knowing how to prevent city and state data breaches can be a great start to keep your government out of the news. You have to start by understanding where the vulnerabilities are and securing them.

A key part of preventing attacks is to take a leadership role and create a security culture. This will enable all employees and stakeholders to make sound decisions when it comes to IT security.

Would you like to get an outside perspective on preventing data breaches? Contact us to schedule a free discovery call today.

September 16, 2019
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