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Cyber Threats Knocking on Door of US State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies

Cyber Threats Knocking on Door of US State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies Homeland Security TodayIn the wake of the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson Mo., the hacking collective Anonymous released the personal information of a law enforcement officer thought to be involved—though it was the wrong officer—while also suspending the city of Ferguson’s website, phone lines and the emails of government workers in the area.

In April 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a public service announcement stating that law enforcement and public officials are at an increased risk of cyber attacks. The announcement referenced the threat of hacktivism—hacking related to an activist movement—and other forms of cyberattacks that pose an increasing risk to state and local law enforcement in the United States.

In response, the National Consortium for Advanced Policing (NCAP) released a report on June 22 providing guidelines for state and local law enforcement agencies on how to identify cyber threats and improve awareness of how cybersecurity relates to their daily lives, as well as the importance of a collaborative approach to cybersecurity in order to counter the recent threat of cyber attacks on local agencies.

The report, June 2016 Cybersecurity Guide for State and Local Law Enforcement, outlines previous cyber threats faced by different levels of law enforcement and methods to assess and improve cybersecurity tactics. The report was released following a panel event hosted by the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security (CCHS) at the George Washington University in combination with NCAP.

Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, said the study addresses the pressing cybersecurity needs of state and local law enforcement by identifying adversaries and providing a guide to help prevent cyberattacks.

“Cyber security has been traditionally, and mistakenly, perceived as a federal responsibility,” said Donovan. “But cyber thieves, hackers and foreign countries do not follow lines of jurisdiction and do not wait on a federal contractors to update code.”

Donovan said cybersecurity is a shared responsibility between all levels of government.

The report features three sections. The first addresses improving an agency’s understanding of cybersecurity, including tactics and motives for cyber attacks; the second states what agencies can do to improve their cybersecurity posture; and the last section provides resources for law enforcement agencies to receive training and guidance in implementing the suggestions.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency 2015 National Preparedness Report, cybersecurity was rated the lowest core-capability by states–meaning states ranked their abilities to plan, assess and train staff in the area extremely low–for the fourth year in a row despite being ranked one of the highest safety priorities.

Usha Sutliff, program manager at Lafayette Group, said the guide was completed with the collaboration of several institutions. It helps to answer the question: “What do cops need to know about cybersecurity?”

“The cyber threats that face law enforcement could continue to outpace the capability to counter them unless one simple dynamic changes. That dynamic is a general lack of awareness of exactly what cybersecurity means to law enforcement and why it must be paid attention to at all levels of an organization,” Sutliff said.

The report stated that law enforcement agencies could be targeted by several groups including, hacktivists, organizations or individuals that act on behalf of a specific agenda; state actors, military or government sponsored organizations; terrorist or criminal organizations; and purposeful or accidental insiders, including staff members who unintentionally leave a system open to vulnerabilities.

Any device that connects to the Internet or operates based on radio frequencies is vulnerable to a cyber threat, highlighting the threat potential of a cyber attack on a government agency and the importance of improving cyber systems.

“The most chilling aspect of these threats is that they come from both outside and within,” Sutliff said.

Law enforcement officers’ personal information, such as home addresses, is also at risk of being compromised through cyberattacks if proper training and preventative measures are not undertaken.

Mike Sena, director of Northern California Regional Intelligence Center and president of the National Fusion Center Association, said agencies have changed from being entirely focused on physical attacks to concerns about both physical and cyber threats.

“As things progressed we started dealing with cryptowall and cyber locks, systems and networks losing 911 capabilities, not being able to call a dispatch center and get an officer to respond to a location,” Sena said. “These are officer safety issues and these are public safety issues.”

9-1-1 systems are among areas that could be compromised through a cyberattack, leaving emergency respondents unable to answer calls. The National Emergency Number Association reported more than 200 call centers have been hacked to date.

“It’s imperative to ensure that state and local officials, as well as first responders, are prepared to protect against and respond to a cyberattack,” Donovan said. “Localities must know our adversaries and how they intend to exploit cyber vulnerabilities and who they should call, should an intrusion or an attack occur."

"Make no mistake, cyber threat is real," Donovan added.

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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