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The public sector is rapidly becoming one of the cybercriminals' biggest targets. As attacks grow in prevalence and sophistication across all industries, the public sector makes up an alarming percentage of targets.
FREMONT, CA: In recent years, disruptive and harmful attacks have hit numerous American cities and the UK's national health system. But unfortunately, this is just the apex of the iceberg for cyber security in the public sector: Governments globally are being struck with alarming regularity.
Recent hacking incidents focusing on municipal and government institutions are skyrocketing—courthouses, libraries, hospitals, schools and government service agencies are vulnerable. While the consequences for some attacks are fortunately minimal, many were more significant. Generally, the severity level can be influenced by each institution's data.
Luckily, there are ways to defend against cyber attacks, and it comes down to developing the right level of capabilities. This article will explore how government cyber security can reach.
The threat to government cyber security
In 2017, the WannaCry ransomware assault struck the UK's National Health Service (NHS), bringing it to its knees in several parts of the country. Although the attack didn't specifically single out the NHS, it was a stark wake-up call—the government was unprepared.
The cost of the attack rests hard to quantify, though estimates for the financial cost came in at over $100 million, as per Digital Health. The service interruptions that compelled NHS staff to depend on pen and paper are far harder to define- and far more concerning.
An attack such as WannaCry on a national health scheme can have destructive implications for the well-being of patients, take crucial infrastructure offline and cause potentially deadly delays.
The trend paints a strongly worrying picture for government cyber security: Not just are attacks happening frequently, but institutions may stay unaware of them on a large scale.
Government cyber security: Strategies to enhance cyber security in the public sector
Some governments have been a huge fortune to avoid a truly cataclysmic cyber attack. But the above statistics indicate that an event of great extent could be on the horizon. Governments must take the right steps to prepare. Being prepared for a cyber-attack requires developing four critical capabilities:
1. Enhanced visibility into threats
The first step—at which public sector organizations fail in huge numbers—is threat awareness. Understanding internal threats (like malicious or uneducated employees) and external threats (like ransomware attacks) are crucial.
Obtaining a comprehensive knowledge of the threats you face means focusing your investment on the areas that matter most. As a result, you can prioritize your resources properly and secure your organization more efficiently.
2. Robust protection for the entire attack surface
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, our work has changed remarkably, and the public sector is no exception. Government operations are usually not as flexible as organizations in the private sector. With more people working remotely than ever, an organization's attack surface is larger and more difficult to defend.
It's no more enough to secure one fixed perimeter. You are now required to secure critical infrastructure, assets and data—regardless of location—from the cloud to mobile to the Internet of Things (IoT).
In many cases, rethinking your entire security policy is required for cyber security in the public sector.
3. Accelerated compromise detection
With progressively sophisticated attacks, it's essential to move fast; agility is everything. But unfortunately, even a slight delay can generate an attack to run rampant using your network, compromising several assets and causing serious damage.
Public sector organizations must work on shrinking the time between compromise and detection, ensuring attacks are detected almost instantly after they happen. This is the only dependable way to alleviate disruption, damage and liability.
4. Reduce impact and quickly restore operations
One of the worst effects of a cyber attack on public sector organizations can be the following downtime, which can have financial implications due to the inability to collect parking fees, for example. But, even more, critical are the delays it can cause in services—particularly for life-or-death situations like healthcare and emergency services.
About cyber security in the public sector, you must be all set for any attack. But the only solution to do so is through practice. So make a plan, document it and practice it repeatedly.
If disaster does strike, you'll at least understand what to do.
Public sector organizations are dealing with government cyber security face a severe challenge in future years. Without a reliable and efficient cyber security strategy in place, they stand to endure ever more harmful and frequent cyber attacks. Still, it's possible to help mitigate that risk by focusing on a few key areas to help avoid any major disasters.