Top 5 Affordable Cybersecurity Measures to Protect Your Local Government

We have discussed why taking cybersecurity measures is critical for your local government entity. The “community valuables” are simply too valuable to risk. Just as with your valuables, there are things you can do that are both effective and affordable. In this blog post, we will discuss our top 5 affordable cybersecurity measures to protect your local government and fend off cyber criminals.

Implementing cybersecurity measures doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are five cost-effective strategies to enhance cybersecurity to protect your community valuables. How many of these have you already done?

1. Conduct Regular Cybersecurity Training:

Keep your team informed about the latest threats and best practices through ongoing cybersecurity awareness training1. It has been reported that 91% of ransomware attacks occur due to a human error made by someone within the attacked organization. Starting with a consistent and evolving training program to prevent these human errors makes sense. We recommend a monthly touch point that educates users about the ever-evolving methods criminals use and reminds them to stay diligent.

2. Implement Strong Password Policies

Encourage complex passwords and consider using a reputable password manager to keep track of them. WAIT!! Before you roll your eyes and say, “That’s never gonna happen.,” Hear us out. There have been huge improvements in how passwords are used. The first SIGNIFICANT improvement is that nobody has to create OR remember these strong passwords. That’s right. You can use overly complex passwords without producing or remembering them. Just use a tool called a password manager. The software program will do it for you and your users.

3. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Adding an extra layer of security with MFA can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access. The risk of stolen passwords is real, but when you require a code delivered at the time of login to the user’s phone, email or authentication app, the risk of breach goes down significantly. If you haven’t enabled MFA yet, do it ASAP!

  • Keep Software Updated: Regularly update all software to patch vulnerabilities attackers could exploit. Automated tools can be deployed across your digital environment to keep up with the latest updates.
  • Utilize Standard Cybersecurity Frameworks: Adopt frameworks like the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to understand, manage, and reduce cybersecurity risks efficiently1.

Using standard cybersecurity frameworks such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) is a strategic approach to enhance an organization’s cybersecurity posture, especially in a local government context where protecting citizens’ data and maintaining the integrity of critical infrastructure are paramount. Here, we’ll delve into the specific functions of the NIST CSF—Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover—and how these can be applied in local government settings. Additionally, we’ll explore starting points for implementing these frameworks and tools that can facilitate compliance.

 Applying the NIST Cybersecurity Framework in Local Government

 1. Identify
  • Function Overview: This function involves developing an organizational understanding to manage cybersecurity risk to systems, people, assets, data, and capabilities.
  • Local Government Application: Local governments can start by conducting a thorough inventory of all IT assets, including hardware and software, and mapping their data flows. This helps understand the scope of potential risks and is crucial for risk management.

   – Practical Steps:

  • Inventory all digital and physical assets.
  • Classify data based on sensitivity and importance.
  • Perform risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities and threats.
 2. Protect
  • Function Overview: The Protect function outlines appropriate safeguards to ensure delivery of critical infrastructure services.
  • Local Government Application: Implement access control measures, train staff on security awareness, and maintain data integrity through encryption and secure storage practices.

   – Practical Steps:

  • Deploy antivirus software, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems.
  • Establish security policies including the use of strong passwords and multi-factor authentication.
  • Regularly update and patch systems to protect against known vulnerabilities.
 3. Detect
  • Function Overview: The Detect function defines the appropriate activities to identify the occurrence of a cybersecurity event.
  • Local Government Application: Use continuous monitoring tools to detect unusual activities that could indicate a security incident.

   – Practical Steps:

  • Implement an SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) system.
  • Conduct regular security audits.
  • Set up anomaly and intrusion detection systems.
 4. Respond
  • Function Overview: The Respond function includes actions regarding a detected cybersecurity incident.
  • Local Government Application: Develop and implement an incident response plan that includes communication with citizens and stakeholders, containment strategies, and legal ramifications of breaches.

   – Practical Steps:

  •      Establish an incident response team.
  •      Create communication protocols for notifying stakeholders and the public.
  •      Simulate incident response drills to prepare for actual cybersecurity events.
 5. Recover
  • Function Overview: The Recover function identifies appropriate activities to maintain plans for resilience and to restore any capabilities or services that were impaired due to a cybersecurity event.
  • Local Government Application: Ensure systems and services are quickly restored to normal operations to minimize service disruption, and lessons learned are integrated into future plans.

   – Practical Steps:

  •      Develop and maintain a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.
  •      Conduct regular backups of critical data.
  •      Review and update incident recovery plans based on lessons learned from past incidents and drills.

 4. Starting Implementation and Tools for Managing Compliance

  •    Assessment: Begin with a baseline assessment to understand current cybersecurity practices and gaps in relation to the NIST CSF standards.
  •    Stakeholder Engagement: Involve all relevant stakeholders from various departments to ensure the framework aligns with operational needs and legal requirements.
  •    Framework Customization: Adapt the framework to address specific local government needs, constraints, and risk tolerance levels.

5. Tools for Managing Compliance:

  •    Compliance Software: Tools like RSA Archer, ServiceNow GRC, and Microsoft Compliance Manager can help manage compliance by tracking controls, conducting assessments, and managing documentation.
  •    Automated Risk Management Systems: These systems can help continuously monitor risks and comply with cybersecurity policies.
  •    Training Platforms: Use cybersecurity training platforms to educate employees on security best practices and compliance requirements.

By integrating the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and utilizing strategic tools, local governments can enhance their cybersecurity resilience, protect citizen data, and maintain trust and reliability in their critical services.

Empowering Your Local Government with Robust Cybersecurity

By prioritizing cybersecurity, you take a proactive stance in safeguarding the critical data and operations that your community relies on. This doesn’t require an extensive budget but rather a commitment to strategic, cost-effective measures. The actionable steps outlined above, coupled with the guidance provided by frameworks like NIST, empower you to build a robust defense against cyber threats.

Take the Next Step: Building a Secure Future

Don’t wait for a cyber incident to highlight vulnerabilities. Conduct a baseline assessment to identify gaps and collaborate with stakeholders across departments. Remember, cybersecurity is an ongoing process. By leveraging the resources and tools mentioned, you can establish a comprehensive program that ensures the long-term security and resilience of your local government’s digital environment.

We stand ready to partner with you to safeguard your community’s valuable assets. Contact us today.

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