City of Anchorage prepares for cyber attack
The municipality of Anchorage is preparing as if they will be the next city hit with a double-pronged cyber attack.
"When the FBI comes to tell you that it is a serious threat," Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said. "you tend to believe them, and so we believe them that it is a serious threat."
At the end of July, the Mat-Su borough was hit by what it being described as a multi-pronged approached—including Trojan Horse and Ransomware—that was “the worst of its kind in the nation.”
Last Friday, the city of Valdez detected a virus early in the day and shut down its entire computer infrastructure as a precaution. In light of the attacks, the city of Anchorage is operating under high alert.
"You gotta have eyeballs on it," Anchorage Chief Information Security Officer Mark Merchant said. "What happened in the Mat-Su is someone clicked on a link and it went out to a malicious site. That trojan virus got in there and it lay dormant for months and the hackers triggered it when they wanted to trigger it."
Merchant says the best way to prevent a cyber attack is prevention.
"We've got layers of protection," Merchant said. "We have systems of alerts but it's awareness that is the biggest defense. You have to have data backups for your systems. Just assume you're going to get infected at some time. Also, how quickly can you restore those systems?"
Security user training stops users from clicking on links that are malicious.
"Make your employees ask questions," Merchant said. "Here at the municipality, we have a mandatory annual security awareness course. Everyone has to take it. It goes through phishing and what it is. Hovering over links and what it does. Hidden links and messages from your uncle overseas wanting to give you money."
If a message is unexpected and too good to be true, it most likely is. The city of Anchorage, according to Merchant, has about five times the computers the Mat-Su borough has. Any attack on Anchorage would have severe consequences if they are not prepared.
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