Local government agencies face growing threat of cyber attacks


National stats show 375 government agencies were hacked in the last two years. That even includes the City of Springfield – where computers were breached just a couple of weeks ago.

“Cyber security is always an issue for any public safety entity – you want to maintain the integrity of your system,” explained Jeff Fries with the Jasper County 911 Board.

Leaders at the Jasper County Emergency Services center know all too well what that’s like.

“It could completely shut us down and we’ve seen that — something as simple as cutting a fiber line,” added April Boyd with Jasper County Emergency Services.

Which happened just last May — an outage that forced the rerouting of 911 calls for hours. That was an accident in the real world, but the risk is always there in the virtual world.

“All of our staff has access to the internet and a lot of our software we access over the internet,” Boyd continued. “So we’re always looking for ways to make sure we’re safe.”

The Jasper County 911 operation uses a number of strategies to make sure an online attack doesn’t shut them down, protections like a sonic wall.

“It’s a firewall,” said Boyd. “It’s just an added protection any time anything is coming in or going out of the center.”

The worst case scenario is a complete shutdown, possibly a ransomware attack demanding money — risks the agency is working to stay ahead of.

“There’s a lot of people out there looking to hack into different government agencies to try to do things to them,” Boyd explained. “We don’t want that kind of chaos; we have enough chaos on our own being a 911 center.”

There’s a lot more to the potential risks to this important lifeline. For more information on cyber risks, click here.

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