Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Newark, New Jersey; and Savannah, Georgia, all suffered crippling municipal ransomware attacks in recent years. In the cases of Atlanta and Newark in 2018, federal prosecutors indicted two Iranian men for ransomware attacks on more than 200 victims at a net cost of $6 million. Damages from these cyberattacks cost affected governments and companies more than $30 million. The FBI reported more than 1,400 ransomware attacks in 2019 alone, with victims reportedly paying $3.6 million to hackers. Sixty-eight of the ransomware attacks targeted municipalities specifically.
The National League of Cities (NLC) highlighted exactly how municipality breaches could have higher repercussions than private-sector breaches in a 2019 case study on municipal cyber defense:
- Governments collect and store more sensitive information than most private-sector companies.
- Choosing a competitor or a new location isn’t an easy possibility for residents if they’re dissatisfied with the protection and service of their local government.
- Current studies show a growing distrust of the government. Security breaches could damage the remaining faith.
The NLC cited three municipalities that responded to cyber threats by fortifying their cyber defense approaches:
- Durham, North Carolina, suffered two major cyber attacks in the past decade, the first attack incapacitating the public school system for three months. Durham responded with new policies, a school district cybersecurity framework, and partnerships with the FBI, the state of North Carolina, and the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC). When hackers struck again in 2018, Durham immediately shut down the attack. In two weeks, the city eliminated all system reinfections.
- The local government of Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska, felt its cybersecurity system was secure. The Mat-Su Borough local government monitored all web, email, and network traffic for DDOS attacks, viruses, malware, and ransomware—even shoring its defenses with an effective backup system. Despite these safeguards, an advanced malware suite hit Mat-Su in 2018, taking down 150 servers and nearly 600 desktop computers. It also infected government files with ransomware. Mat-Su did not pay the ransom and found that the attack had infected and encrypted their backups, leading to a $2.5 million cleanup and a 3-month mitigation process. Mat-Su strengthened its filters and enhanced its prevention-based approach with increased detection and containment measures.
- Worcester, Massachusetts, quickly noted the importance of a robust cybersecurity awareness program. It fortified its municipal cyber defense by prioritizing cybersecurity efforts in the 2019 budget and hiring a full-time data security specialist, a head cybersecurity awareness trainer, and a cybersecurity awareness trainer for employees. Worcester then established a one-hour mandatory cybersecurity awareness class instructing employees in cyber defense best practices. Worcester has successfully defended itself from all cyber attacks with its preventative approach.
While we are aware that the current cybersecurity framework is focused on detection and mitigation, at Vericlave, we believe that the only way to be truly secure is to take a preventative approach. When your system is concealed from all unauthorized access and when your critical assets are isolated in secure enclaves, you spend much less time and money preparing and enacting response strategies for worst-case scenarios.
Protecting your systems, reducing the attack surface, and eliminating the ability of malicious actors to find your network has been proven to be effective, and the Vericlave Armored Cloaked Network combination of a zero-trust approach, with risk-based key management, and government-level encryption has no known breaches since it was implemented by the Department of Defense and the US Intelligence community more than 20 years ago. It is robust enough to protect assets vital to national security, and simple enough to implement that it should be the next step to protect the critical assets of municipalities.
Municipalities and other elements of our country’s critical infrastructure including financial institutions, healthcare, manufacturing and transportation will continue to be at risk due to the ever increasing quantity, velocity and sophistication of cyberattacks. Vericlave is committed to providing a highly effective, prevention-based approach to protect critical assets. Please contact us at Vericlave.com when you are ready to protect your network.