While municipal governments have generally been slower to adopt the latest information technology than the private sector, they’ve made important progress in the past several years. Cities and towns now keep digital copies of many important records and allow residents to conduct some business online.
But though there are many benefits to going digital, municipalities are also beginning to face some of the same risks that private companies have – specifically, the persistent threat of data breaches. One of the worst instances occurred in New York City between 2005 and 2009, when city agencies inadvertently exposed nearly 400,000 confidential records.
On the federal level, Congress has taken steps to prevent data breaches, such as through the passage of the Cybersecurity Act of 2015. Now, states and municipalities have a chance to build on this progress.
Texas lawmakers consider gaps in municipal cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is promising to be an important topic of discussion for Texas legislators in their 2017 legislative session, according to a report by the Austin American-Statesman. But few expect the state to take a major role in crafting a complex, prescriptive bill that dictates to each municipality exactly how it should tackle the growing threat of data breaches.
“There is a whole set of very big questions out there that Congress is going to need to weigh in on, state and local governments are going to need to weigh in on, and that the private sector will have responsibility to address,” Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism and deputy national security adviser, told the news source. “I think what seems to be clear thus far is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem.”
Rather, Texas lawmakers are concerned about whether each city, town or county has the resources to manage its own solution.
One of the biggest problems municipalities face when they try to boost their cybersecurity is recruiting the skilled workers necessary to do the job. Unfortunately, private companies with large computer networks have the same goal, and they can often afford to pay people more for their expertise. Even though the U.S. economy has improved considerably in recent years, many municipalities still haven’t been able to return their budgets to pre-recession levels.
So while San Antonio is home to one of the largest cybersecurity industry hubs in the U.S. after Washington, D.C., it struggles to hire talent to manage its computer network. As the state mulls ways to protect against data breaches, it also has to decide exactly how much it is willing to invest.
Protect yourself from your city’s security flaws
Any time a municipality suffers a data breach – particularly if the perpetrators are nefarious – citizens’ privacy is at risk. Compromised municipal records can not only contain information about public workers, but also anyone who has had any dealings with the local government. We all have a stake in ensuring that our cities and towns are protected.
But waiting for the local government to take action isn’t enough. The best thing you can do is take your privacy into your own hands. Luckily, there are many other tools that can help. An identity theft protection service like Identity Guard can monitor your credit file, Social Security Numbers and public records, and alert you to certain activity that may be indicative of fraud. It also includes a tool that can help you measure the risks to your information security and offers tips to help lower them.