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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

More than 50 cities have fallen prey to ransomware attacks in 2019 so far, with the average paying $36,295 in ransom. As a result, cities are beginning to explore new cybersecurity options. 

The big picture: As cities move more of their services online and collect more data on their communities and residents, small- to mid-sized municipalities with underfunded IT departments are particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks and associated costs. 

By the numbers: The International City/County Management Association found that roughly 30% of local governments don't know how often their systems are attacked.

  • Of those that could, an alarming 60% said they were being attacked on a daily — if not hourly — basis. 

What's happening: When a city is attacked, critical services such as tax management and permit approval can be halted as city officials decide whether to pay a ransom or rebuild a system.

  • Paying ransom can quickly restore operations, but nearly 60% of citizens object to such action.
  • Rebuilding a system, meanwhile, is typically more expensive and can take months. 
    • Baltimore chose not to pay a ransom and has instead spent over $5.3 million in restoration costs. City officials have estimated that a complete recovery will cost over $18 million total, including lost revenue.

What's needed: Residents largely do not want municipal funds paid out to hackers, so if cities are going to rebuild, their new systems should have built-in defenses.

  • A cybersecurity policy gaining traction among municipalities is Zero Trust, which operates on the assumption that anything inside or outside of a corporate network including data, devices, systems and users is a security risk.
  • How it works: In a Zero Trust system, administrators use technologies including end-to-end encryption, multifactor authentication, identity access management and analytics to control access.

What to watch: The U.S. government is starting to invest in Zero Trust pilot programs, including a recently announced project with the Defense Information Systems Agency and U.S. Cyber Command. 

Alan Duric is the co-founder and CTO/COO of Wire, a secure collaboration platform.

Go deeper

38 mins ago - World

Brazil senators vote to recommend criminal charges for Bolsonaro

Brazilian senators vote on probe into President Bolsonaro's handling of pandemic. Photo: Gustavo Minas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate committee Tuesday voted to approve a report recommending President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with a raft of criminal indictments, including crimes against humanity over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, per AP.

Why it matters: Bolsonaro has become the face of a right-wing approach to the pandemic that includes repudiating vaccines and masks and resisting lockdowns and other mitigation measures. The Senate report holds him personally responsible for half of the country's 600,000 deaths.

Former Georgetown tennis coach pleads guilty to accepting admissions bribes

Gordon Ernst (left) former head tennis coach at Georgetown, outside a courthouse in Boston in 2019. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A former Georgetown University head tennis coach has pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribery charges related to facilitating the admission of prospective applicants.

Why it matters: Gordon Ernst solicited and accepted bribes from William Singer, ringleader of the cheating scheme uncovered by Operation Varsity Blues, and families in exchange for helping prospective applicants get into Georgetown as student athletes, according to the Justice Department.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.