Natural Disasters Could Leave Communities Exposed to Cyberattacks: Report

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In response to concerns that increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals could take advantage of natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires and tornadoes to wreak havoc on critical infrastructure, including transportation, emergency response, water and sewer systems and hospitals, state and local governments are trying to prepare by holding drills or creating preparedness plans, reports Pew Stateline.

The Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a federally funded group that helps state and local governments prevent and respond to digital threats, has been involved in 10 virtual exercises. Part of the exercise typically is for governments to prepare for a coordinated cyberattack shortly after a major disaster.

If a hacker launches a disruption to coincide with a natural disaster, that could greatly hamper first responders, hospitals, utilities and government agencies, according to the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, and create a domino effect such as loss of electrical power, water, telecommunications and other infrastructure. And with climate change causing more frequent natural disasters, cyberattacks could become more likely.

“Should states be preparing for this? Absolutely,” said Dan Lohrmann, chief security officer for Security Mentor, a national cybersecurity training firm that works with states. “There’s an assumption that a blended attack like this will happen.”

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