States look to fight back against cybercrime as hackers leverage pandemic to their advantage

States look to fight back against cybercrime as hackers leverage pandemic to their advantage

Posted March 1, 2021

States look to fight back against cybercrime as hackers leverage pandemic to their advantage

  • COVID-19 made its U.S. debut in Washington state, but the virus was only the first of several intruders to attack the state in the past year.
  • Rocked by the massive SolarWinds hack, unemployment system breaches and other attacks, several states are trying to bolster their cybersecurity in the midst of the public health crisis.
  • Alerts from the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned that the SolarWinds campaign posed “a grave risk” to federal, state and local governments, and private companies. The hackers had the “resources, patience, and expertise to gain access to and privileges over highly sensitive information if left unchecked,” the agency cautioned.
  • The SolarWinds attack wasn’t Washington state’s only cyber crisis this past year.
  • In late spring, Washington was one of more than a half-dozen states victimized in a massive fraud scheme in which cybercriminals struck unemployment systems, which already were overburdened with a huge influx of claims.
  • A cybersecurity company linked the attacks to a Nigerian crime ring it nicknamed Scattered Canary. Washington state officials say they were scammed out of hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims.
  • In response to the attacks, a group of Washington state senators in February introduced a measure to bolster cybersecurity, at the request of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.
  • The bill would create an Office of Cybersecurity by statute within the office of the state chief information officer. The office would set standards and policies for safely storing sensitive data and develop a centralized cyber protocol for all state agencies, including those run by independently elected officials, such as the state auditor.

– Jenni Bergal | March 1, 2021