Residents in cities across the United States rely on official state and government websites for information, news, weather, and paying bills like car registration and property taxes. When these official websites slow down or go offline due to hackers or traffic spikes, residents are inconvenienced. When official websites experience prolonged downtime or data loss, that inconvenience can last far too long.
For example, in January 2020, multiple cities in Oregon were hit with a cyberattack that knocked out all computer systems, took the city’s website offline, and disrupted phone functionality for days. Thousands of residents were inconvenienced during this time.
These cities in Oregon aren’t alone. Official city and government websites are a constant target for cyber attacks; thousands of these websites have been affected in the past and they continue to be affected today.
Hackers target government and city websites for a variety of reasons, but their vulnerability makes them easy targets. These websites are vulnerable because they’re not generally hosted on a server that can automatically regenerate a hacked site or spin up new resources to prevent a DDoS attack from taking it offline. Websites hosted on a cloud server are a different story.
Local cities are overdue for considering the cloud
Moving website hosting and networks to the cloud can alleviate the inconvenience after a cyber attack or other data disaster and prevent a prolonged recovery time. If those cities in Oregon had a cloud-based network and cloud hosting with 24/7 IT support, they would have been back online within minutes rather than days.
Hosting a website on a cloud server does cost more than a basic shared hosting plan, which is what many cities use. Cities want to save as much money as possible since they don’t always have a big budget for IT expenses like websites, hosting, and networks. However, the true cost of inferior hosting can be devastating.
In August 2019, the state of Texas had to take 23 government agency websites offline after a ransomware attack. The specific government agencies weren’t named, but they were said to be local governments.
Other institutions that are constantly under attack include media outlets, financial companies, and schools. For instance, Lancaster University fell victim to a data breach in July 2019 that resulted in student data being used in phishing attacks.
Cloud-based cybersecurity is top-notch
Moving to the cloud would be a wise decision for government and local agencies for many reasons and security is at the top of that list.
There’s no denying that cybercrime is on the rise. 2019 cybercrime statistics are frightening with plenty of DDoS, malware, and man-in-the-middle attacks. There were also instances of data breaches and web application attacks.
Cloud-based hosting and networks provide a cyber security advantage. While it’s far from perfect, cloud security implements secure connections (like HTTP(s) protocols and TCP/UDP services like SSH, SMTP, and SFTP. Also, local and remote access to networks can be restricted by authentication applications.
Although cyber security in the cloud is advanced, it’s still up to each individual organization to implement security protocols and policies. According to Forbes, the most common causes for cloud data breaches are misconfigured access restrictions on storage resources and improperly secured systems. These issues aren’t the cloud vendor’s responsibility.
In addition to organizations enforcing strict security policies, cloud vendors are using high-tech tools to monitor for security breaches in real-time and thwart, deflect, and recover from threats as quickly as possible.
Moving to the cloud is no longer an option
Why haven’t more cities moved their websites to the cloud? City officials may not see the need for cloud services as urgent because there are other options. For instance, if the department of licensing website is down, residents can call, mail a check, or visit their local DMV/DOL to register their vehicle or pay fines.
While people do have the option of paying in person or by mail, people live busy lives and sometimes being able to pay a simple fee online can avoid frustration. For a disabled person who needs to schedule rides well in advance, the convenience of being able to immediately pay a fee online is priceless.
When the system is down even for a day, some people might end up having to pay late fees and extra fines for missing their payment due date.
Hopefully city officials will soon recognize the convenience and security offered by the cloud and at least consider making the switch.