Phoenix Technology Group: Blog
Government Cybersecurity: Strengthening National Defense in the Digital Age
Cyber attacks on government organizations have seen a significant increase lately, as cybercriminals target entities with less oversight and prioritize security. Among the institutions at risk are state and local governments, higher education, and K-12 school districts. The lack of strong cybersecurity measures makes them vulnerable to breaches that can have far-reaching consequences, particularly considering the sensitive nature of the data they hold.
Based on the IBM 2022 Cost of a Data Breach Report, identifying and containing a breach in the public sector takes an average of 277 days, with associated costs escalating with the duration of the breach. Furthermore, dealing with sophisticated attack vectors and implementing adequate security measures present growing challenges. It’s crucial for government agencies to prioritize cybersecurity to protect their valuable data and maintain vital daily services.
- Government organizations need to prioritize cybersecurity due to the increasing number of cyber attacks.
- The average time and cost of identifying and containing a breach are higher for public sector agencies.
- Adopting robust security measures can mitigate threats and protect sensitive data held by government entities.
Common Cybersecurity Challenges in Governing Bodies
Governments face various cybersecurity issues, with ransomware and unauthorized disclosure being two significant concerns. Ransomware primarily impacts national security since cybercriminals inject malware into systems and networks, encrypting essential files. Often, these attackers are more focused on gaining ransom payments than stealing data. Between 2017 and 2020, municipalities paid an average of $125,697 in ransoms.
- Target: Federal government entities
- Method: Malware injection, encrypting vital files
- Motivation: Ransom payments
- Impact: National security, disrupted services
Another prevalent issue is unauthorized disclosure, which involves breaches resulting from sharing information that should be kept confidential. It usually stems from human error, such as losing an unencrypted device or accidentally emailing protected information. Proper security measures, policies, and training can significantly reduce these risks.
- Cause: Human error
- Examples: Lost unencrypted devices, accidental sharing of protected information
- Mitigation: Adequate security precautions, policy implementation, and employee training
To protect against cyber threats, it’s critical to:
- Encrypt all devices used by employees
- Develop and enforce strong security policies
- Train employees on proper handling of sensitive data and equipment
- Create a comprehensive cybersecurity plan
Being prepared for cybersecurity incidents is crucial. Ensure you have a thorough knowledge of common risks, response strategies, and contingency plans to tackle cyber threats and maintain safety. Remember, the key to combating cyber threats is to develop a proactive approach that combines technology with employee training and policy enforcement.
Challenges Governments Encounter in Strengthening Cybersecurity
Insufficient Emphasis on Cybersecurity by Leaders
Elected councilors or commissioners may not fully comprehend the necessity of cybersecurity measures in their communities. Approximately 48% of them admit that they are unaware of the extent of the need. This is not to say that leaders do not care, but rather that they are not adequately informed. Ensuring cybersecurity is a crucial aspect of running organizations such as schools and government agencies, and targeted risk management must be prioritized.
Resistance to Change in Organizational Culture
Culture within government entities can serve as a barrier to adopting changes. Introducing a new initiative often requires passing through multiple discussions and approvals, which can be challenging in long-standing organizations with established routines. Additionally, multiple subdivisions within a government entity may need to adopt the new practice, further complicating consensus and support.
Inadequate Employee Training
A lack of training, education, and awareness contributes to the vulnerability of government organizations. Proper cybersecurity training can significantly improve infrastructure security, as individuals will more readily recognize threats such as malware, email phishing, and unauthorized disclosures.
Insufficient or Misallocated Funding
Many government entities face funding barriers when it comes to implementing mature cybersecurity measures. This is particularly evident in K-12 school districts, which may not possess ample resources to prevent or respond to incidents. Organizations that have the funds available but choose not to invest in cybersecurity often perceive IT departments as cost centers with minimal returns on investment. Around 50% of states lack a dedicated cybersecurity budget, while over 30% have experienced reductions in funding or no change at all.
Recruiting and Retaining Qualified Professionals
Hiring and maintaining skilled professionals for government cybersecurity roles can be both costly and challenging. Many government bodies rely on third-party vendors for IT needs, including cybersecurity. However, these vendors may not always possess the necessary skills to address the organizations’ requirements effectively.
Unpreparedness for Incident Response
While governments tend to have greater infrastructure and personnel than smaller businesses, these resources are not always utilized to develop comprehensive response plans. Identifying risks and enhancing capabilities to mitigate those risks should be prioritized. Even third-party vendors may not fully understand or be prepared to address the risks faced by government organizations. Consequently, when incidents occur, governments may find themselves unprepared to respond effectively.
Impact of Cybersecurity Incidents and Breaches Today
You may find it important to consider the financial impact of ransom demands when faced with cybersecurity incidents such as ransomware attacks. Government entities, especially K-12 school districts, are often targeted and compelled to pay the ransom to protect sensitive data and restore services. The frequency of such incidents has been increasing in recent years.
Cost of Recovery
Keep in mind that the expense of recovering from a ransomware attack can exceed the ransom amount by a significant margin, sometimes reaching into the millions. For instance, in a Georgia case, the attackers demanded $55,000, but the state chose not to pay. Consequently, the recovery was estimated to cost up to $17 million.
Denial of Service Expenses
Cybersecurity incidents like the 2019 ransomware attack on the State of Texas, affecting 22 municipalities, can cause considerable service disruption costs. The attackers demanded 2.5 million dollars during this incident. As a result, essential services such as processing utility payments and providing access to birth and death certificates were temporarily unavailable for some municipalities.
Costs to Reputation
Lastly, evaluating the reputational cost of security breaches is crucial, as it can lead to a loss of trust within the community. Citizens often have no choice but to provide their personal information to entities like government organizations to receive necessary services, and they expect their data to be safe and secure.
Future Steps for Government Bodies
Assessing Your Cyber Risk
In order to implement an effective cybersecurity plan for government entities, top-level leadership engagement is critical. Viewing cybersecurity as a pressing issue rather than just an IT problem ensures that city councils, city managers, boards, and executives collaborate with IT departments and cybersecurity experts. This unified approach will lead to the development and deployment of a strategic security roadmap.
Training and education for all parties involved, from board members to interns, should be a high priority. Improved awareness and a thorough understanding of cybersecurity best practices are the best defense against cyber threats.
There are key actions to take for immediate protection while policies and training are being created:
- Restrict or limit administrative access.
- Incorporate multi-factor authentication.
- Verify that backups are functional and retrievable.
- Apply an endpoint protection solution.
Implementing these foundational practices is crucial to ensuring an improved security posture for your government networks.
A well-rounded cybersecurity plan should also emphasize incident response preparedness. Reacting effectively to any potential cyber incidents will minimize their impact and reduce risks. Keep in mind that a comprehensive cybersecurity plan should encompass prevention, detection, and response strategies that cater to your specific threat landscape.
Evaluating Your Current Security Risk
To quickly gauge your current security risk levels and assess overall IT health, our IT professionals have formulated 12 questions that identify vulnerabilities and provide actionable recommendations. By examining data backups, administrative protocols, and password protection procedures, the IT assessment will offer quick wins to enhance network stability, disaster recovery, and overall IT health within your organization.
Phoenix Technology Group Ensures Your Government Agency’s Safety
Through the use of advanced cybersecurity measures, the Phoenix Technology Group (PTG) will aid your government agency in maintaining a secure digital environment. Here are some key strategies PTG employs:
- Comprehensive risk assessment: PTG will evaluate your agency’s current cybersecurity policies and provide actionable insights to strengthen the security infrastructure.
- Custom security solutions: PTG tailors its services to suit the specific needs of your agency, providing targeted and effective implementation.
- Continuous monitoring and threat detection: By utilizing state-of-the-art technology, PTG stays vigilant in identifying and addressing potential cyber threats in real-time.
Get in touch with our team to get started today.