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Local Governments Rely on Preparation, Knowledge to Reinforce Cyber Readiness

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Blog topics:  Archive

Kelly Mitchell

By Kelly Mitchell

Prior to serving as Indiana's State Treasurer, I spent seven years as a county commissioner. In most counties, the commissioners serve as the county executive, so I was given a front-row seat to the complex processes of local government. That experience has proven tremendously informative in my current role, as I often work directly with local government units. From the financial programs of the Indiana Bond Bank to the broad resources of the Statewide 911 Board, I am in frequent communication with county and city personnel.

We've heard a lot about cybersecurity in the past few years, but much of the conversation has taken place at the state and federal levels. What many people don't realize is that local governments are among the most vulnerable to cyberattacks and, until recently, hadn't taken steps to protect themselves. In a 2020 survey of local government, IT executives by the Public Technology Institute, 54 percent said their elected officials were only somewhat engaged with cybersecurity efforts, and 23 percent said their elected officials were not engaged at all. Furthermore, two-thirds of IT executives reported their cybersecurity budget was inadequate.

It may be tempting to assume that this only happens in other places, especially local governments serving large, urban populations, but that isn't the case. Just last year, Lawrence County was hit by an attack that took most county systems offline for days. In 2019, LaPorte County was forced to pay a large ransom after a ransomware attack devastated their systems. Cybercrime can and does, happen in our own backyard.

We can work to fight this trend by arming ourselves with two weapons: preparation and knowledge. Thankfully, many counties have seen the trends in cybersecurity and are working diligently to protect themselves. In fact, 82 percent of IT executives reported their local government has a cybersecurity plan or strategy in place. Once a cyberattack has hit, it's too late.

Knowledge is an important weapon in our fight against cybercrime, Regular training for all government employees is a must. A workplace is only as protected as its vulnerable link. The Indiana Cybersecurity Hub features a wide range of helpful resources that include educational components, best practices, and emergency preparedness. I encourage you to visit the Hub to learn how you can better protect yourself.

My office partners with the Indiana Bond Bank to host a podcast, Days of Our Cyber Lives, which was created to bring awareness to issues relating to cybersecurity and to provide solutions and ideas for local governments. These episodes are packed with helpful information, and are a lot of fun, too!

The pursuit of cybersecurity is a race without a finish line. It requires constant education, vigilance, and time. Working together, we can continue to move the needle on this issue, and my office will continue to uncover new solutions for local governments.