A Cybersecurity Checklist for City Officials

If a cyberattack hits your city government, do your officials know what steps to take? In an article in Western City, Lea Deesing, chief innovation officer for the City of Riverside and executive director of technology and education non-profit SmartRiverside, lays out the core areas that must be covered in case of a cyber breach.

1. Be sure to train in cybersecurity awareness

Don’t just trust the technology to keep your system safe, but build in behaviors and protocols to avoid user error, says Deesing. She quotes the City of Moreno Valley’s technology services division manager Steve Hargis as saying, “Despite several well-known breaches over the past few years, many governments continue to rely on anti-virus and firewall protections alone while ignoring the paramount importance of end-user education.” Deesing recommends training staff to look out for links in spam or phishing emails, suspicious calls or other security risks.

“As a hacker, why would I try to breach a $20,000 security device when I can convince someone to insert an infected $5 thumb drive?” cybersecurity expert R.J. Robinson tells Deesing.

2. Pay someone to hack into your system

As a test, of course. Deesing recommends annual security audits and penetration tests using ethical hackers that report flaws in your system. She also points to the popularity of having round-the-clock remote security watching your system in real time.

“These managed security service providers often use special Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools that provide a dashboard view into security and server logs that your city’s IT staff probably doesn’t have time to monitor,” writes Deesing. “Your staff may view these logs after an incident has already occurred, but usually not before.”

3. Make sure you have a continuity of operations plan in place

Ensuring a continuity of operations plan is discussed in detail throughout staff departments is crucial when systems go down, says Deesing. “Prioritization of system recovery should be based on criteria such as the critical nature of system transactions and potential scope of impact,” she writes.

4. Ask questions

It’s up to leaders to ask the right questions, even if your city has security plans in place, says Deesing. “How might you support current cybersecurity efforts in a collaborative way? Do policies need to be written that require executive sponsorship? Can the Human Resources Department help support a security awareness training program? Is support needed for new hardware, software or services?” she asks.

Be sure to take a look at Deesing’s checklist of factors to consider in cybersecurity planning, including staff, software and hardware requirements, policies, training and more.