Recent data breaches within the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Social Security Administration remind us of the importance of protecting sensitive data. As part of this process, citizens should hold entities at all levels of government accountable, including local units. From bank account numbers used to process utility payments to credit cards swiped at downtown parking meters, local governments collect more personal financial data from the average citizen than most federal government agencies and private merchants. Despite higher transaction volumes, less investment is made into cyber security protection. Local governments are more vulnerable to cyber attacks than their larger counterparts due to limited expertise and resources. In October 2012, over $400,000 was lost to cyber hackers in matter of minutes from the City of Burlington’s bank account. Thousands of utility customers set up on the city’s autopay program we impacted. In May 2013, over one million citizens’ driver license and Social Security numbers were compromised when the Washington Court Office suffered a data breach. To prevent such calamities local citizens should be asking hard questions about how their confidential data is being protected. Public disclosure of third party information security reviews should be as commonplace as publishing a local government’s budget or audit report.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald