Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

April 27, 2014

Cyberattacks

Maryland agencies should keep us informed

Maryland government agencies should be more forthcoming about cyberattacks on state computer systems.
But for an investigation by Capital News Service, it is unlikely the public would know there have been six cyberattacks since the beginning of 2013. The news service discovered the attacks when it filed a Maryland Public Information Act request with the state’s Department of Information Technology. While most of us are aware of attacks by hackers and scammers against retailers like Target and Nieman Marcus, assaults on state and local government computers are going unreported. A Department of Information Technology report obtained by Capital News Service said a phishing scam hit the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and affected more than 100 users. Two other incidents affected more than 10 users.
Another incident involved Maryland State Police last September. Police were bombarded with thousands of gun applications ahead of incoming stricter firearm laws. To reduce the massive backlog, volunteers from the departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Transportation, Public Safety and Correctional Services, Human Resources and Juvenile Services offered to help out with data entry, according to a police press release.
According to a National Rifle Association press release, some state agencies’ computers were not adequately secured to handle gun applications, which include sensitive information. Elena Russo, director of the police’s communications department, said the incident on the Department of Information Technology report was merely a notification of a potential security risk. “It was not a security breach, it was not a cyberbreach, there were no hacks and no data brought forward by the Maryland State Police,” she said.
In another incident, it was revealed that three Department of Human Resources servers were attacked on Oct. 22. Brian Schleter, director of communications for the agency, said the attack was launched on a department website used to post press releases. No data was compromised.
It’s obvious that state government — like the private sector — will continue to be the target of hackers and scammers. Keeping the public abreast of these attacks and — more importantly — stepping up efforts to keep computer systems secure need to be a priority.

 

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