Regardless of the country, local government is very important in the lives of most citizens. It provides many daily services and takes care of various problems. Therefore, the effects can be far-reaching and deeply felt when a security failure occurs.
In early 2023, Oakland, California, fall victim to a ransomware attack. Although city officials have not disclosed how the attack happened, experts suspect phishing emails are the most likely culprit. As a result, city officials took down their servers to contain the attack.
Governments have been the target of many ransomware attacks and breaches. Since most local governments have few IT staff, there is potential for password sharing, credential reuse, and a lack of multi-factor authentication security, exposing vulnerability to breaches.
It was first seen on a Wednesday night in early February; when Oakland, California city officials quickly took most of the service’s backend servers offline and posted messages to the city’s website. A few days later, a local emergency issued. In addition to the closure of some offices, many services will remain offline for some time, including Oak311, Parking Citation Assistance Center, Business Tax License and Licensing.
The Play ransomware group claimed responsibility for the municipal service breach and posted about the hack on their group’s website. In their first release they provided 10GB of data containing decades worth of files. In their second, larger breach, up to 600GB of data was compromised.
The impact of the security breach went beyond the disruption of city services, affecting Oakland residents and city employees personally. From July 2010 to January 2022, city employees were notified that their personal information may have been compromised. Additionally, certain Oakland residents, such as those who bring claims against the city or file federal programs through the city, may also be affected.
As expected, this ongoing situation is a nightmare for the city’s IT services and administration, and also a public relations nightmare. Many concerned citizens continue to question how they are being affected and how to protect themselves from identity theft.
Consequences of Violations
Any system breach is serious. In this case, the data is encrypted, making the service unusable. However, with the infrastructure compromised, threat actors can leverage that access to further infect city residents and employees. The Oakland breach may have been limited to lost data, but depending on the group responsible, the consequences could have been much worse.
Municipal IT services jobs are already difficult due to typically smaller budgets and overworked IT staff. The myriad of security vulnerabilities to track in popular software and the difficulty of staying on top of ever-changing threats makes IT work even more challenging. Therefore, it is important to implement policies and procedures that can help secure and protect your local government.
Underlying so many services are passwords and policies that control access to essential services. General best practice guidelines such as NIST 800-63BISO 27001/27002And SOC 2 ensure that your organization is set up for success. Enforcing these standards is difficult, and tools like Specops Password Policy with Breach of Password Protection make the life of a bonded IT professional a lot easier.
Protect Users with Specops Password Policy and Breached Password Protection
Following best practices and standards is tough. Fortunately, there are tools available such as Specops Password Policy that enforce stronger password policies across Active Directory, help meet security compliance standards, and block the use of over 3 billion compromised passwords to help keep your users safe from ransomware attacks from organizations like Play.
Specops Password Policy provides a variety of features to help keep your organization secure. It includes a custom dictionary, a unique and customizable password policy, and strong protection against hacked passwords.
Keeping the City Safe from Ransomware
The ongoing challenges faced by Oakland, California, are difficult for city residents and officials. The unknown threat of how the stolen information can be used for further hacking or identity theft makes many people feel uncomfortable and scared. By adopting a proactive way of protecting your government entities with tools such as the Specops Password Policy, you can limit the scope of attacks and support security deterrence.