From Riverside, California to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, fire departments across the United States have to put out a different kind of threat: cyberattacks. While most people may think hackers and other cybercriminals are focused on industries like tech and healthcare, public service departments, like fire departments, are being hit. Fire department cybersecurity is increasingly becoming an essential part of a station’s standard protocols. From cloud-based fire software to understanding the best technology to limit exposure, fire departments should become more aware of the role cybersecurity plays in their day-to-day operations.
Be Aware of Ransomware
There are many types of security breaches that can find their way into a fire department’s network system. These breaches include phishing, ransomware, trojan horses, and viruses. The most common and profitable for hackers is ransomware, which works by encrypting a victim’s hard drive, denying access to essential files, and demanding a ransom to decrypt data. This gives access back to the user; however, in some cases, this isn’t always done.
Municipal systems have been hit with ransomware attacks before, causing widespread outages that can halt many city services. This makes it even more important to understand that attacks can happen to anyone and end up costing thousands of dollars in one hit.
Phishing scammers use email or text messages to trick those on the receiving end to give them personal information. They may try to steal passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. Phishing emails may even appear to come from a person or vendor the recipient knows and trusts. Scammers often create messages similar to what a bank, social networking site, or online payment website would send. When targeting fire departments, scammers may send emails that appear to come from mutual aid agencies or the federal government.
Ways Fire Department Can Create a Cyber Security Strategy
Fire departments, like any entity, can use simple strategies and fundamental steps to limit exposure to hackers and keep their information as safe as possible. Fire department cybersecurity training doesn’t have to be extensive, but it does have to look at cybersecurity through multiple lenses.
Here are some steps that fire departments can take to protect their network and information:
- Complex Passwords: Fire departments should train their employees to use different passwords for multiple accounts. These passwords should be changed every few months and contain a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers.
- IoT Devices: Be sure the fire department has a secure network infrastructure and that equipment calibration verification policies and processes are continuously reviewed and updated. Training for fire department employees should also be provided to users to ensure they’re aware of the risks of using an IoT device, such as a tablet, smartphone, or another wearable device.
- Cloud-Based Systems: Using a cloud-based system eliminates the need to keep data on physical servers that are more prone to being hacked. This way, a fire department’s data and sensitive information will be backed up to the cloud and at a lesser risk of exposure to cybercriminals.
- Awareness is Key: Most data breaches can be attributed to human error, such as not locking a computer when done using it. A fire department’s team should be aware of common threats and the importance each person plays in keeping their department secure from cyber attacks.
- Protect Data and Services: Fire departments should use features like automated security updates and differentiate access to data and sensitive files. Fire department heads should limit user access within systems to only include information they need specifically to get the job done.
- Invest in Cyber Security Coverage: If fire department data is compromised or a breach occurs, first responders could be held responsible for that information being obtained by a hacker. Cybersecurity coverage should include coverage for defense costs and damages in the event of a lawsuit, payment for notification costs, and public relations efforts.
While not every cyber attack can be prevented, having a necessary foundation of awareness and coverage can help limit fire department cyber crimes and keep fire departments as protected as possible in the digital landscape.
About Provident Fire Plus
At Provident Fire Plus, we offer custom-tailored packages to best protect firefighters and volunteer firefighters. We understand the risks that emergency response teams are subjected to on a daily basis, and have worked to serve these dedicated professionals for over 87 years. For more information about our products and policies, we invite you to contact our experts today at (855) 201-8880.