Hackers Are Using the Pandemic to Target Overwhelmed States and Cities

Local governments have seen an uptick in phishing attempts and other cybersecurity threats since the pandemic began. They’re now asking Congress for more resources to combat this growing crime.

Last month, a coalition of groups representing state and local governments sent a letter to House and Senate leaders. It read in part:

COVID-19 has required our workforces, educational systems and general way of life to quickly move remotely, exerting greater pressure on cybersecurity and IT professionals and increasing the risk of vulnerabilities and gaps to state and local networks. These gaps are exacerbated by systems requiring modernization that do not foster remote work, which also increases the risks to employees supporting these systems.

 

Likewise, increased traffic to unemployment portals and health insurance marketplaces has created additional risks as systems are being modified or created to handle the exponential increase in demand. This surge on our information technology infrastructure requires additional investment in both funding and manpower to keep up with the massive usage. Additionally, malicious cyber actors have used attention on COVID-19 to their advantage, further targeting government infrastructure, the healthcare sector, and individual citizens for internet crimes, such as ransomware, phishing, and computer-enabled financial fraud.

As such, we request Congress authorize and fully fund a dedicated cybersecurity program to help states, territories and localities develop and implement innovative and effective cybersecurity practices to include for remote work; help to build resources and human capital; better detect, analyze and protect against cyber threats; and help to enhance partnerships among different levels of government.

Cybersecurity funding did not make it into the $3 trillion stimulus package but advocates have not given up. There are several allies in Congress pushing for federal resources for states and cities.

“State and local governments have been critical in our fight against COVID-19, providing essential services that help combat the disease and deliver relief to the most vulnerable," one of those allies, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), told the Hill. "At a time of unprecedented need for these services, we need to ensure governments have the necessary resources and guidance to protect against, and recover from cyber-attacks."


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