When the online group Anonymous hacked its way into 70 law enforcement computer systems last summer, the ease with which it broke into the websites and exposed information was a strong reminder that cyberattacks can happen in any state or locality, says Governing magazine. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers says half of states spend under 3 percent of their IT budget on security. “Today's hackers aren't kids. They are experienced computer hackers in China or Russia,” says Kristin Judge, former commissioner of Washtenaw County, Mi. “They can get into your system and they stay in.”
Anonymous attacked rural police and sheriff’s offices, the kind of small-town agencies are that increasingly are running critical services on computers that can be easily shut down by hackers, cybercriminals or just a disgruntled employee. Besides educating employees, local governments can prevent a great deal of computer harm by installing firewalls, backing up data, using a strong password policy, installing only approved software applications, and controlling employee Internet access.