Nov 03 2021

Fighting Ransomware with a Unified Approach to Modernization

With a holistic approach to cybersecurity, state and local government agencies can evolve citizen services while keeping critical data secure.

Ransomware attacks are not new, but unfortunately, they have become part of our everyday lives. The start of the coronavirus pandemic and the necessary shift to virtual systems had detrimental effects on government cybersecurity, as agencies everywhere looked for ways to operate remotely.

When it comes to state and local governments, IT leaders are struggling to effectively frame their cybersecurity strategies due to the broad scope of attacks.

These cyberattacks are prolific, and state and local governments don’t feel prepared to face them. According to recent research from MeriTalk, 76 percent of state and local IT decision-makers say fear of experiencing the next headline-grabbing breach “keeps them up at night.” Further, fewer than half rate their cybersecurity as very effective (state decision-makers report 42 percent; local decision-makers report 43 percent) and 75 percent experienced a cybersecurity breach or potential compromise in the past year.

So, how can state and local organizations build momentum in the fight against attacks and improve cyber hygiene practices?

State and local governments need to invest in solutions that will spur modernization while also delivering the most secure user experience. In turn, state and local IT leaders should address gaps in cyber strategies and recovery measures and seize opportunities for federal, state and local collaboration — all to build the most robust defense against a potential attack.

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Agencies Need to Develop Greater Cyber Resiliency

While the threat of an attack continues to grow, it is more important than ever that state and local governments look to their organizations’ recovery and restoration plans and ensure the most robust backup. Unfortunately, despite the measurable increase in cyberattacks, 68 percent still doubt their organization’s ability to implement basic cyber hygiene. In addition, under half say their recovery measures include rapid data restore (46 percent), a defined list of personnel involved (39 percent), cyber insurance (38 percent) or diversified storage (30 percent).

When it comes to increasing cyber resiliency, state and local agencies should start by identifying strategic gaps. By developing a personalized plan for protecting data and identifying necessary steps to follow in the case of an attack, they will be able to strengthen defenses and protect citizen data.

Having consistent, real-time access to data is critical for state and local governments: In the event of an attack, they must be able to recover data as quickly as possible and at scale. Implementing a modern data experience that is fast, simple and cost-effective can help mitigate the devastating effects of a cyberattack.

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Taking a ‘Whole-of-State Approach’ to Cybersecurity

Increased collaboration and information sharing across the public sector is another critical factor in the fight against cyberattacks. Eighty-eight percent agree that state and local governments should collaborate for a “whole-of-state approach” to cyber resilience. In states where elected officials are highly engaged in the fight for cyber improvements, IT decision-makers say cyber efforts are twice as effective.

The strongest defense is comprehensive, so state and local governments should work together to develop cross-agency functions and protection systems. Where possible, IT leaders should implement a holistic approach to shared challenges, such as improving cyber training, instituting basic cyber hygiene and streamlining advanced security protocols.

As citizens see this increased collaboration and leaders prioritizing data security, trust in government will continue to grow.

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The Future of Data Protection for State and Local Government

State and local IT leaders must dive headfirst into system modernization for increased cyber resilience. Citizen data protection should be the No. 1 priority for agencies, and the best way to avoid an attack is to stay ahead of it.

State and local governments should look to strengthen their cyber infrastructure and commit to a unified approach for the best outcomes.

No framework can be built without first establishing a good foundation. Having a reliable detection and remediation plan in place, along with easily accessible backups, will allow for maximum citizen data protection.

With the right systems, state and local governments will be able to evolve in their citizen services while keeping their data secure.

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