Cyber thieves are robbing local governments blind, and people are sick of it.

The European Union enforced strict cybersecurity and data protection laws. Americans want to know: Why aren’t more of our elected officials doing the same? At least on a local level.

Seventy-one percent of Americans feel state and local governments should spend on identity theft and data protection before an attack occurs, says a study from cybersecurity company SecurityFirst.

“Cybercriminals are finding local government agencies to be prime targets for cyberattacks,” says SecurityFirst CEO Jim Varner. “The City of Atlanta is a recent example, where a ransomware attack is costing the city millions of dollars, after knocking out critical services and erasing years of sensitive data.  This incident shows how, without data, our communities cease to function in any sort of fashion today’s citizens find acceptable.”

What happened in Atlanta?

It’s a good question. Seeing since only one-fourth of Americans have heard about the city’s ransomware attack.

This April, the City of “Atlanta paid $2.6 million to recover from a $52,000 ransomware scare,” Wired reports. But SecurityFirst’s study says it’s now nearly $10M – and growing.

The funds were spent on “emergency efforts to respond” to the attack. The thieves infected local government systems with malicious software. And they asked a ransom of $50,000 worth of bitcoin, according to the technology magazine.

The rest of the $2.6 million went to incident response and recovery. The city needed to bring on extra information technology staff to combat the damage done, the report says.

Despite the lack of awareness, 52 percent expect they’d be personally affected if their local government experiences a cyberattack.

And confidence in local leaders to protect personal data is low. Only 33 percent believe communities are equipped to keep data safe in the event of an attack. This could be a reason why only 40 percent feel their local government considers the protection of its citizens’ data as important as other essential health and human services.

How this kind of breach affects the community

A breach of that size affects more than just city finances. Sixty-four percent of citizens say cyberattacks, like ransomware, could have other long-term impacts. Here’s how their community can suffer…

  • Their local government’s ability to provide critical services: 60 percent
  • That includes first responders: 77 percent
  • Municipal utilities: 74 percent
  • Courts: 68 percent
  • And public schools: 68 percent

The threat of identity theft is hitting closer to home every day. You’re more likely to experience a breach of at least 10,000 records than you are to catch the flu this year, according to a study from IBM. And as we see it can cost a fortune. The average cost of a data breach to organizations worldwide is $3.86 million. Not to mention it takes them 196 days to detect a breach.

City leaders are using Atlanta’s attack as an example to argue for more preventative measures. And 59 percent of citizens say they would support someone who makes data protection a priority. However, only 30 percent say politicians address data privacy and protection while campaigning.

Forty-six percent approve of community investments in data protection. They feel it can reduce spending in other areas or raise taxes. Only 19 percent disagree.

“Civic leaders with the foresight to improve data protection may not be celebrated as a local hero, because no one talks about attacks that never happened,” Varner says. “But these efforts can help a government keep key services operating smoothly even in the face of a serious event such as in Baltimore, where critical 911 and 311 emergency services were offline for up to 17 hours after a cyberattack.”

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Joe Pye

Joe Pye

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Pye is the associate editor of

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Article last modified on August 20, 2018 Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Americans Want the Government to Better Protect Their Data - AMP.