Cyber threats and ransomware attacks can be crippling for municipalities and county government offices. Local government employees need to access a growing number of systems, applications and databases to perform their duties, while the rise of remote work has drastically increased the attack surface of a typical small government office.
IT managers in local government need to implement password security and best practices to reduce the risk of credential related data breaches and ransomware attacks. The best way for small government administrations to improve their security posture is to enforce the use of strong and unique passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for all accounts, and to limit access to critical systems to only those who absolutely need it, following the principle of least-privilege access. Password and privileged access management solutions are the most cost-effective way for organizations to achieve these goals.
Selecting a FedRAMP and StateRAMP Authorized solution for password and privileged access management will help organizations with limited IT budgets defend against cyber threats while streamlining the procurement process.
Local Government Offices: A Prime Target for Cybercriminals
A typical municipality or local government office has several departments, which can include administration, community development, mayor’s office, public works, and fire and police departments to name a few. A small town of 5,000 residents may employ up to 50 full time employees and a mid-sized town of 20,000 people might have 200 employees. All of the employees within these departments have varying degrees of access to government systems and applications.
The term “cyber attack” encompasses a range of malicious activities that aim to compromise digital systems, data and networks. These attacks include familiar terms like ransomware, phishing and malware. These threats have materialized into network breaches, with impacts ranging from stolen sensitive data to financial losses and being unable to provide critical services.
Recent incidents highlight the vulnerability of small government offices to such attacks:
Stowe, Vermont (Feb. 2023): The town’s systems fell victim to a phishing attack, leading to unauthorized access and potential data breaches. Confidential resident information was exposed.
George County, Mississippi (July 2023): A ransomware attack hit the county’s systems, rendering essential services inaccessible. The attackers demanded a hefty ransom in exchange for restoring access.
Langlade County, Wisconsin (July 2023): A ransomware attack caused “catastrophic software failure” and significant disruption to government operations, including 911 phone lines.
Why Local Governments Are Being Targeted
Several factors contribute to the growing trend of cybercriminals targeting local government offices:
Limited IT Budget and Resources: Small towns, cities and counties often lack the resources and staff for IT security. This makes them less prepared to prevent and mitigate cyber attacks.
Growing Number of Systems: With an increasing number of systems and applications that require logins, the attack surface for cybercriminals expands, providing more entry points for exploitation.
Sensitive Resident Information: Government offices handle a wealth of sensitive information, from personal data to financial records. This valuable data makes them lucrative targets for cybercriminals seeking to exploit personal identities or commit financial fraud.
The Critical Role of Password Security
Traditional password management methods like saving passwords in browsers, Excel spreadsheets and sticky notes are far from secure or reliable. This is where password managers come in. Password managers offer secure password generation, storage and automated login features. They encrypt passwords and can integrate with a variety of systems, greatly reducing the risk of unauthorized access.
Passwords can also be securely shared between teams or even externally, when necessary. Employees can then quickly autofill their passwords into websites and apps, eliminating the need for them to remember dozens of passwords. System administrators can also enforce password security best practices, such as length and the number of special characters required for a credential. Some password managers, like Keeper Security, also provide security audit scores that display the overall health of an organization’s password security and highlight issues such as weak passwords, reused passwords or account credentials that have been found on the dark web.
Keeper Security Government Cloud: The Solution for Local Governments
Keeper Security Government Cloud (KSGC) is a FedRAMP and StateRAMP Authorized password and privileged access management solution. Keeper securely stores passwords and private information and can auto-generate strong and secure passwords, which can then be autofilled when logging in to websites and applications. Each user receives a personal encrypted vault, which includes the following features:
Enterprise password management
Users can access all of the records in their individual vault on any device via a master password and each record within the vault is encrypted via AES-256 encryption. This level of encryption is recognized as one of the most secure methods available. The end-user vault is easy for employees to use and actively improves their day-to-day lives by removing friction from the login experience across any website, operating system or device.
Secure password sharing
- Employees who use spreadsheets or text files, email, Slack, text messages and sticky notes to share passwords are putting their organizations at risk. Keeper enables easy-to-manage, secure password sharing, and IT managers can control who has access to share passwords and which passwords can be shared.
Role based access controls
- Keeper allows administrators to fine-tune their organization’s access levels to sensitive data and credentials, from teams and groups down to the individual user level. Roles define permissions, control which features and security settings apply to which users and manage administrative capabilities. Teams can also be used to easily assign roles to entire groups of users to ensure the consistency of enforcement policies.
KSGC is a simple-to-use and easy-to-deploy solution for reducing the risk of credential-based cyber attacks. Keeper can be deployed in minutes and is available as a desktop application, mobile app on both iOS and Android, and as a browser extension on all major web browsers.
For small governments, a password manager provides employees with a simple and effective method to adopt password security best practices. For employees who have access to utility systems, vehicle records, resident information and so much more, there is no more having to remember dozens of logins, while IT managers can rest easy knowing those employees are no longer reusing, sharing or potentially exposing the passwords that protect such sensitive and important information.
Ready to take the next step in securing your small-town government office?