We all live and work in a digital world, and that world is fast becoming an even more dangerous one. Today’s hackers and scammers are smarter, more creative, and more proficient at getting the information, and oftentimes the money, they want. Much of that information, unfortunately, is housed and used by state and local governments, including public school systems. As such, today’s continuity planners must work with their IT departments and others to protect their municipality’s precious data and the people they serve. That means taking cybersecurity into consideration when developing or updating their Operations Plans (COOPs), Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs), and even their All-Hazard Mitigation Plans (HMPs).

Ransomware is a costly threat.
According to experts, ransomware poses one of the greatest risks to municipalities large and small. Ransomware, as the name implies, is a type of malicious software that blocks access to computer systems or data (usually by encrypting it) until the victim pays money, and sometimes a lot of it, to the attacker. A lot of times, the ransom demand comes with a deadline, meaning if the victim doesn’t pay on time, the data is gone, and gone for good.

Just last month (June 2019), the City of Riviera Beach, Florida, agreed to pay $600,000 in ransom to hackers who paralyzed its computer systems. The City of Baltimore, Maryland, and more specifically, its Committee for Public Counsel Services, experienced a similar, but vastly more costly attack back in May 2019. It ended up costing the City roughly $18 million to repair damages.

Other municipalities across the country have felt the sting from ransomware too. Among them are Greenville, North Carolina; Augusta, Maine; Licking County, Ohio (where the police department was targeted in 2017); and Imperial County, California, to name just a few.

If you think such an attack can’t (or won’t) happen to your municipality, think again. Recorded Future, an internet technology company specializing in real-time threat intelligence, identified 53 ransomware attacks against state and local agencies in 2018, up from 38 the year before. As of April, the company had spotted 21 such attacks in 2019. And, that