Industry Insights: The Basics of Cyber Security for Fire Departments

While the advent of new technologies can keep firefighters safer and better prepared for their job, there is also an increased risk of cyber attacks.

Earlier this year, a fire department reached out to our team at Emergency Reporting (ER) about an incident where their fire software that had been hosted on internal servers had been compromised, leaving them without the data they needed to run operations efficiently. This cyberattack led them to get in touch with us to take advantage of our cloud-based fire software and eliminate their need for internal hosting. Unfortunately, this story is all too common. In this article, we will discuss what types of cyberattacks your department could be vulnerable to, and the steps you can take to protect your agency.

One of the largest changes in the fire service today is the advent of technology. While technology can keep firefighters safer and better prepared for their job, there is an increased risk. Every 39 seconds, there is a cyberattack.1 These attacks can hijack technological systems and jeopardize the ability for you to save lives. As a result, it becomes every department’s responsibility to learn about cyber security now instead of learning these lessons the hard way.

With all that is on the mind of a firefighter, it’s understandable if something as simple as being cautious with an email is overlooked during a stressful day. However, one small slip could cause an entire department to fall victim to a hacking attack that can cripple internal communications and data storage or compromise sensitive information for both department members and everyday citizens.2 Below we will cover some of the most common types of cyberattacks your department may face.

Ransomware

There are many types of security breaches that can occur including phishing, ransomware, viruses, and trojans. One of the most common and profitable for hackers is ransomware, which works by encrypting a victim’s hard drive, denying them access to key files, and demanding a ransom to decrypt the files and give access back to the user. Just last year, municipal systems in Atlanta, GA were attacked, causing widespread outages that halted many city services. The attackers demanded $50,000 in digital currency and cost the city much more in data recovery costs.3 The damage costs of ransomware are $10 billion in 20194 and attacks are growing more than 350% annually.5