Cybersecurity is getting a lot of attention in government circles.
There’s the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential elections. There’s the massive breach of Equifax information that could impact 145.5 million Americans, and then a new hack was reported at the credit bureau Thursday. In 2015, Penn State reported attempts to access systems in the colleges of engineering and liberal arts.
But how often does someone think about a school getting hacked? What about a township or a borough?
According to Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, there are concerns and risks.
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On Thursday, DePasquale said he had surveyed school districts and municipalities and many had worries.
“While a lot of attention, rightly so, is being put on the data breach at Equifax, we cannot ignore the cybersecurity needs of our school districts and local government offices,” he said.
School districts maintain information on students and families, as well as being large tax collectors that are often large employers, as well. State College, Bellefonte, Bald Eagle and Penns Valley school districts all show up on Centre County’s list of top employers.
Municipalities hold information on taxes, property and more.
“The fact that the majority of survey respondents said they are ‘concerned’ about their levels of cybersecurity should be a wake-up call,” DePasquale said in a statement.
The auditor general’s office conducted the surveys in August and September. There were 954 responses collected, including 177 from school districts and 777 from municipalities.
According to the data collected, 87 percent of districts are worried about cybersecurity and believe risks will only get worse, while 81 percent say they need more help to deal with the threat.
Municipalities were a little less alarmed, with 65 percent concerned, 72 percent believing the risks will increase and 55 percent saying more resources are required.
“These surveys highlight cybersecurity concerns, but we must take action before a municipality or school district data breach occurs,” Depasquale said.
DePasquale said he has shared the results of the survey with the governor’s office and state agencies that work directly with local governments and school districts.
“Cybersecurity is extremely important in this day and age,” said Philipsburg-Osceola Superintendent Gregg Paladina, who says his district has ramped up protection.
“You can’t be too careful,” he said. “There are always people two steps ahead of you.”