LITTLE ROCK — Over a 12-month period there were 130 reported cyberattacks against Arkansas government at the state and local levels. That was more than twice the number reported in the previous year.
The Legislative Audit Committee compiles reports of cyberattacks against government entities in Arkansas, ranging from potentially serious security breaches to relatively trivial attempts to hack into a government web site.
These days, government agencies invest a lot of resources in setting up and maintaining data bases. You can renew your car tags or driver’s license on line. Your tax information is stored on a government computer, as are employees’ personnel files.
In 2021 the legislature required the reporting of cyber threats against public entities, so that security officials can better evaluate the incidents and plan against them. The type of threats constantly evolves, and the total number of threats is growing, an auditor told members of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee. That means preparation is more important than ever, in order to prevent major disruptions in government services caused by a cyberattack.
Two of the most serious cyberattacks occurred about a year ago. A vendor that provides computer services to 72 Arkansas counties was the victim of a ransomware attack that shut down online services for many days. Some counties lost services for weeks or months.
It affected the filing of deeds, collecting taxes, registration of vehicles and issuing of marriage licenses. Responses among counties and state agencies, such as setting up new security measures, entailed substantial costs to government.
The other major cyberattack was against the Little Rock School District, which reportedly paid a $250,000 “ransom” to hackers who penetrated the school’s computers.