By APCO’s Technology Team

It is our intent to deliver timely, actionable information to APCO members through this website and to provide you with tools and information to keep your agencies and organizations as secure as possible.  For those of you who work in the cybersecurity field, you are well familiar with the adage “it’s not if you’ll be attacked, it’s when.”  For those to whom cybersecurity is relatively new, don’t let that phrase scare you off, it’s simply an expression of the reality we all face in a digital age.  Because of this reality, it is increasingly important that staff at all levels of an organization understand that cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility.

This website, along with other cybersecurity offerings, seeks to assist APCO members in identifying and mitigating the risks from cybersecurity incidents. It is important that every agency or organization develop guidelines on establishing effective cybersecurity strategies to include training, awareness, and incident response programs. The primary focus of this site will be to provide information that should assist with detecting, analyzing, and responding to incidents. This information is not mean to be kept close to the vest. Information sharing, strategic planning, and a willingness to engage in the process are part of everyone’s responsibilities.  The weakest link can be anyone, or anything, and can happen at any time.  Only by working together as teams, sharing information, and being willing to learn from our mistakes, and share those learned lessons with others, can we be successful in the ongoing battle to secure our networks and systems.

To that end, I would like to share with all of you a few suggestions based on how APCO approaches cybersecurity incidents as an organization.

A cybersecurity incident is defined by the Department of Homeland Security as an occurrence that:

(A) Actually or imminently jeopardizes, without lawful authority, the integrity, confidentiality, or availability of an information system or the information that system controls, processes, stores, or transmits; or

(B) Constitutes a violation or imminent threat of violation of law, security policies, security procedures, or acceptable use policies.1

An incident could be either intentional or accidental in nature.

Examples of cybersecurity may include, but are not limited to:

  • An incident in which an attacker commands a botnet to send high volumes of connection requests to a web server, causing it to crash.
  • An incident in which users are tricked into opening a “quarterly report” sent via email that is actually malware; running the tool has infected their computers and established connections with an external host.
  • An incident where an attacker obtains sensitive data and threatens that the details will be released publicly if the organization does not pay a designated sum of money.
  • An incident where a user provides or exposes sensitive information to others through peer-to- peer file sharing services.

Unfortunately, successful incidents similar to those noted above have occurred across the public safety landscape.  These incidents can cause financial and reputational harm, disrupt daily operations, and create compliance issues with state and federal laws.

Sharing information, getting everyone engaged, and establishing cyber incident response capabilities helps personnel to minimize loss or theft of information and disruption of services caused by cyber incidents.  Incident response capabilities also build institutional resilience. Information gained and lessons learned during incident handling can help better prepare for dealing with future incidents.

One of the elements of APCOs internal technology mission is to provide, secure, and maintain information systems, allowing the Association to accomplish its mission.  This same approach can work for organizations of any shape and size.