More than half of city and state employees in the United States are more concerned about cyberattacks than they are of other threats, a new study discovered.
Conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of IBM, the survey shows that over 50% of city and state employees are more concerned about cyberattacks than natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Moreover, three in four government employees (73% of the respondents) are concerned about impending ransomware threats.
With over 100 cities across the U.S. reported as being hit with ransomware in 2019, the concern is not surprising. However, the survey suggests that ransomware attacks might be even more widespread, as 1 in 6 respondents admitted that their department was impacted.
Alarmingly though, despite the increase in the frequency of these attacks, only 38% of the surveyed government employees said they received general ransomware prevention training, and 52% said that budgets for managing cyberattacks haven't seen an increase.
"The emerging ransomware epidemic in our cities highlights the need for cities to better prepare for cyber-attacks just as frequently as they prepare for natural disasters," said Wendi Whitmore, VP of threat intelligence at IBM Security.
While 30% of the respondents believe their employer is not investing enough in prevention, 29% believe their employer is not taking the threat of a cyberattack seriously enough. More than 70% agreed that responses and support for cyberattacks should be on-par with those for natural disasters.
On the other hand, when asked about their ability to overcome cyberattacks, 66% said their employer is prepared, while 74% said they were confident in their own ability to recognize and prevent an attack.
"The data in this new study suggests local and state employees recognize the threat but demonstrate over confidence in their ability to react to and manage it. Meanwhile, cities and states across the country remain a ripe target for cybercriminals," Whitmore also said.
The respondents also expressed concerns regarding the impending 2020 election in the U.S., with 63% admitting concern that a cyberattack could disrupt the process.
While half of them say they expect attacks in their community to increase in the following year, six in ten even expect for their workplace to be hit. Administrative offices, utilities and the board of elections were considered the most vulnerable.
Employees in education emerged as those less prepared to face a cyberattack, with 44% saying they did not receive basic cyber-security training, and 70% admitting to not receiving adequate training on how to respond to cyberattacks.
The survey was conducted online, from January 16 through February 3, 2020, among 690 employees who work for state or local government organizations in the United States. All respondents were adults over 18, employed full time or part time.
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