Each day brings more government documents and information into servers and databases — and a more expansive trove of data for hackers.
With a rise in cyber-attacks against governmental entities, the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners took the right step in purchasing a cyber insurance policy to guard against the exposure of its data. By joining Lincoln, which did so this year after two years of self-insuring, the municipal governments added another weapon to their arsenal in a silent, ever-changing war.
Both Lincoln and Lancaster County have avoided such cyber-attacks thus far. To date, they’ve been fortunate – but one buys insurance before, not after, circumstances dictate the need for added protection, as other jurisdictions have discovered.
When a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in 2014, hackers responded to a perceived injustice with force. As a result of coordinated cyber-attacks, local and state websites experienced outages, and officials’ private information was released. Protecting its networks cost Missouri an estimated $150,000.
Though some hackers breach databases in hopes of extorting money, governmental servers are often attacked out of revenge. So-called hacktivists – those who hack in response to a cause – have shut down or compromised a variety of databases to dole out punishment for events they don’t like.
And this behavior is on the rise, hence the need for the insurance policies sooner rather than later. The federal Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center tracked 160 hacktivist attacks in 2016, a nearly 150 percent increase from the 65 in 2015.
To date, it appears that Nebraska has avoided or deflected attacks directed at cities and states elsewhere in the country. But, when it comes to the expanse of information city and county governments have on residents – and the far-reaching nature of the services they provide through digital means – cyber insurance is a worthwhile safeguard for residents of Lincoln and Lancaster County.
In the end, members of the general citizenry — whether through the disclosure of personal information or the loss of a particular system needed to deliver a certain service — would feel the brunt of the problem if such a cyber-attack pierced the defenses.
But the efforts of officials in Lincoln and Lancaster County are encouraging, showing that elected leaders are taking this threat seriously and adding a shield to their defenses. Plans to look into a possible joint agreement, since both municipalities share an information technology department, further indicate the lengths to which these agencies will pursue this sound strategy.