Last year, the City of New Bedford, Massachusetts was targeted by an attacker that came with a $5.3 million ransom demand, the largest ever recorded for a local government. While the ransom might have been notable, the fact that New Bedford was the victim of a ransomware attack was seemingly inevitable due to the City’s lack of proper cyber resources. Unfortunately, this is the case for many government organizations. Fortunately, there are steps to take in order to help governments prevent ransomware attacks.
Recently, we explored the ransomware trends that agencies need to better understand, how IT pros can help bolster their security posture, and today, we provide a simple security assessment that can help governments identify areas of concern. The Path Forward for Government report takes a deep dive into how agencies can reduce their attack surface, better protect their assets and infrastructure, mitigate cybersecurity risk, and build a stronger incident response capability. These efforts are top-of-mind for federal, state, and local governments as ransomware attacks continue to grow in both frequency and sophistication.
According to the report, 32 percent of state and local agencies and approximately 30 percent of federal agencies have experienced a ransomware attack. Moreover, it’s likely that the actual number of ransomware attacks is much higher. According to the report, only about 10 percent of attacks are reported. As ransomware attacks become more of an established part of the threat landscape for public sector organizations, government agencies can forge a safer path towards mission success by focusing on four key areas for cyber mitigation. Dr. William Kennedy, a cybersecurity expert with Verizon, recommends the following:
- Create a Risk Mitigation Strategy
Using best practices and understanding the current threat environment can help agencies be prepared for an attack. By using threat intelligence, governments can establish what areas of their environment need the most attention to defend against attacks. It’s important that agencies have an overview of their devices to fully understand risk. With an effective understanding of what and who is in your environment, agencies can mitigate risk and use cybersecurity resources most efficiently.
- Create a Strong Cybersecurity Program
With the help of industry partners, governments can create an effective cyber program that takes the environment, approach, policy and compliance all into account. Agencies should look to build a cyber hygiene training program, implement network segmentation, back up critical data, and keep software up to date.
- Monitor Your Environment
To create an effective cybersecurity program, governments need to understand the vulnerabilities, threats, and cybersecurity necessary in their environment. Agencies should look to a partner that can conduct cybersecurity assessments to identify threats and provide a list of devices that are connected to the network.
- Be Prepared in the Event of a Threat
Do you have a response plan? How will you notify staff? What about clients? A response plan should include these answers as well as your decision on paying ransom and how data recovery will be done.
Using these four areas, agencies can work to build a stronger cybersecurity posture to help prevent and mitigate ransomware attacks. Is your agency ready to defend against attacks? Read this paper to learn how.