Key steps governments can take to guard against malware attack
2020 saw governments globally report more than 100 significant cyberattacks. In the United States, a major cyber-offensive was launched against multiple government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, with the extent of the attack and damage still unknown.
These statistics show that government agencies, even the most sophisticated ones, are not immune to cyberattacks, including malware attacks.
What is a malware attack?
A malware attack is a catch-all term that describes any cyberattack using harmful programs like viruses, trojans and worms to damage a single computer, server or network.
In general, any software whose intended purpose is to harm is considered malware, regardless of which technique it uses to cause harm, whether ransomware, keyloggers, adware, rootkits or cryptojacking.
Governments and government agencies are increasingly becoming malware attack targets owing to the vast amount of data they collect. In 2018, 1.2 billion government records were breached, accounting for 95 percent of all breached records, alongside the retail and technology industries.
Recent government malware attacks in the United States
- February 2020: The U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency suffers a data breach exposing an unspecified number of individuals’ personal information.
- April 2020: Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a surge of attacks hit U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers, health-care providers and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- May 2020: Hackers attempt to steal U.S. research into a coronavirus vaccine
- September 2020: Universal Health Systems, an American health care firm, sustains a ransomware attack forcing it to revert to manual backups, reschedule surgeries and divert ambulances.
- October 2020: Hackers target the U.S. Census Bureau in a possible attempt to compromise census infrastructure, alter registration information, conduct DoS attacks or collect bulk data.
As one of the hardest-hit sectors, city and county governments should take a firmer cybersecurity stance to prepare for potential malware attacks. Here are five steps city and county governments can take to avert potential malware attacks and protect their data and infrastructure.
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