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Cyber security and privacy are a key priority: MNP Digital Municipal Research Report

Cyber security and privacy are a key priority: MNP Digital Municipal Research Report

5 Minute Read

Many Canadian municipal organizations recognize the importance of cyber security as digital transformation rises — increasing the likelihood of cyber attacks. The MNP Digital Municipal Research Report indicates that 76 percent of local governments are focusing their efforts on cyber security and privacy in the near future to protect sensitive data from threats. Following cyber security best practices such as leveraging industry frameworks, performing regular assessments, and creating an incident response plan can help keep your technology and data safe from cyber threats. Implement these best practices in your municipal organization to help protect the privacy of your citizens.

Local governments across Canada are investing in digital transformation to streamline service delivery models and meet the changing needs of citizens, businesses, and employees. However, as digital adoption continues to rise, it is becoming increasingly more important to ensure your technology, data, and information is secure to protect your organization against threats.

We recently conducted the nationwide MNP Digital Municipal Research Report to benchmark digital transformation across municipalities. When looking at strategic priorities, cyber security and privacy were identified as a primary focus for municipal organizations over the next three to five years. Let’s review why cyber security is a key priority for local governments and the best practices you can follow to enhance the security of your organization.

According to our survey, municipal organizations will place the highest priority on cyber security and privacy over the next 3 to 5 years. 61% continous improvement and innovation. 76% cyber security and privacy. 61% strategy and business planning.

Why are local governments concerned about cyber security?

Government organizations continue to be among the top targets of cyber attacks — and the consequences of a successful attack can be severe. Many local governments are emphasizing the improvement of the digital service delivery experience for their citizens, but must in parallel ensure that technology, data, and information is protected and secure.

While cyber budgets are often on the lower end of the scale, protecting data is still critical — and it is necessary for municipal organizations to explore how to do more with less resources to meet the expectations of their citizens. Understanding the risks and potential impacts of a successful cyber attack is the first step toward keeping your organization safe from threats:

Privacy breaches

Your employees play a key role in ensuring that your citizens receive the services they need to thrive. However, employees without proper training may not recognize cyber threats to your organization such as phishing emails or malware attacks. This lack of awareness may lead to data leaks and breaches of sensitive information — significantly impacting the privacy of your citizens.

Disruption to critical infrastructure and services

A successful attack has the potential to disrupt critical infrastructure such as your public transit system or water and waste systems. It may also interrupt emergency and other necessary services that your municipal organization provides to support the health and safety of your citizens.

Reputational impacts

Your citizens trust your local government to provide the infrastructure and services they need to support their wellbeing. They also expect that your municipal organization will protect their sensitive information.

A successful cyber attack will not only have a significant financial and operational impact on your municipal organization. It may also disrupt the critical infrastructure and emergency services that your citizens rely on and cause reputational damage to your organization. This may result in long-term consequences such as difficulty recruiting new talent or increased budget constraints.

Respondents by annual cyber security budget: $0 to $50,000: 23%, $50,000 to $100,000: 6%, $100,000 to $500,000: 6%, $500,000 to $1,000,000: 1%, $1,000,000 to $1,500,000: 1%

What cyber security best practices can support local governments?

While many local governments have limited budgets to invest in digital transformation, it is still critical to protect sensitive data from cyber attacks and security breaches. Following these cyber security best practices can help protect your organization’s technology, data, and information from threats:

Review risks

Risks are an inherent part of digital transformation programs and initiatives. Review any potential privacy risks introduced by changes to your business processes and technologies to understand the threats associated with your digital transformation initiatives. This will help you identify the steps you can take to mitigate the risks associated with adopting new technology.

Leverage industry frameworks

Industry frameworks have been developed to support cyber security practices across organizations. These frameworks provide standards for the design, implementation, and management of cyber security programs and can be customized to meet the unique requirements of your local government.

Some examples of industry cyber security frameworks include:

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • Payment Card Industry (PCI)
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • Center for Internet Security (CIS)
  • Canadian Centre for Cyber Security

Take protective measures

Protective measures such as implementing operational technology (OT) security environments and ensuring that your systems are constantly monitored can help reduce risks to your municipal organization. Developing a risk-based patch and vulnerability program can also help mitigate threats to organizational data and information.

Discuss cyber insurance coverage and identify any potential gaps with your management team. Additionally, subscribing to an ongoing threat intelligence program can help keep your local government’s data and sensitive information safe from cyber attacks.

Perform regular assessments

Regular assessments such as a crown jewel assessment can help your local government identify and prioritize the protection of its most important information. This type of assessment will help you to identify the crown jewels of your municipal organization, such as citizen data or financial records. After the identification process is complete, the assessment team will review vulnerabilities and risks, evaluate security measures, and allocate resources to protect these valuable assets.

Additionally, a third party can perform assessments such as maturity assessments, penetration testing, breach assessments, and simulation testing. This will help you to identify areas where your security is at risk and the measures you can take to reduce cyber threats.

Create an incident response plan

An incident response plan can help your local government effectively respond to security breaches or cyber attacks. Incident response plans focus on minimizing the impact of a cyber attack, limiting damages, and resuming operations quickly after an incident occurs.

Incident response plans help to categorize incidents, delegate roles and responsibilities, and outline a communication plan. These plans also detail steps to contain the attack and processes to investigate the incident to prevent similar threats from occurring in the future.

Collaborate with other municipalities

Many local governments are facing the same risks as digital transformation increases. It may be helpful to collaborate with other municipal organizations to increase threat intelligence or create a joint Security Operations Centre (SOC). These partnerships can help reduce the cost of your cyber security measures and provide comprehensive protection against new and established threats.

Make security a shared responsibility

Your employees work with sensitive information every day and play a critical role in protecting your organizational data. It is important to emphasize that security is a shared responsibility of all employees and to ensure that they understand how to manage sensitive information to prevent data leaks and breaches.

Invest in training programs to help raise awareness of common threats such as phishing campaigns. These programs can also educate your employees on the steps they can take to mitigate risks, who to contact if they suspect a security breach has occurred, and how to respond to a cyber attack.

Take the next steps

It is more important than ever to enhance cyber security and privacy measures as the digital landscape continues to evolve. Implementing these best practices in your local government can help your organization protect itself and its citizens from the disruption of critical infrastructure and services:

  • Review risks
  • Leverage industry frameworks
  • Take protective measures
  • Perform regular assessments
  • Create an incident response plan
  • Collaborate with other municipalities
  • Make security a shared responsibility

Amplify the power of your cyber security program with MNP Digital’s Cyber Security and Privacy team. Connect with our advisors for a free consultation to learn more about how your local government can enhance its cyber security measures and protect the privacy of your citizens.

Wendy Gnenz, CPA, CA, CMC
[email protected]

Eugene Ng, BComm, CISSP, PCI QSA, ISO 27001 LA
Partner, Cyber Security
[email protected]


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