Protecting Your Fire Department Against Cyberattacks

Protecting Your Fire Department Against Cyberattacks

Technological advancements have enhanced operational efficiency across almost all industries. Fire agencies are no exception—from better data recording and report generation to camera-assisted situation monitoring, improved safety, more accurate smoke detection, and quicker fire alert. We could almost say fire agencies are among the biggest beneficiaries of technology.

However, as you know, integrating technology into processes also comes with the threat of cyberattacks. And the risk has never been higher than it is today. According to recent research by the Clark School at the University of Maryland, cyberattackers launch onslaughts after every 39 seconds on average. Data from the 2019 Global State of Small & Medium-Sized Businesses Cybersecurity Report shows that over 76% of U.S. organizations dealt with attempted or successful cyberattacks in 2020. Within the first quarter of the same year, the FBI recorded an over 300% increase in its internet crimes desk reports. While we might partially blame this on the COVID-19 epidemic and the resulting situations, this has been the trend for pretty some time, even before the pandemic.

In this article, we discuss why you should consider having a reliable cybersecurity partner, explore the most common cyberattack vectors targeting fire departments, and list a few safety tips.

Everybody Is a Target

For a long time, cybercriminals only went after organizations in specific industries like banking and financing, healthcare, and government agencies. That's because they, presumably, provided an easier target and were more likely to pay ransoms.

Fast-forward to today—nobody is safe. Malicious cyber actors target all types of organizations, regardless of size or industry. Nothing best elaborates this than the recent surge in supply chain attacks in which cyber attackers go after hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of institutions simultaneously.

So, is your fire agency safer than organizations in other industries? A few decades ago, the answer would be yes. But, today—no, nobody is safe. Therefore, you need to take data security as seriously as any other business and consider partnering with a reliable cybersecurity provider.

3 Common Forms of Cyberattacks on Fire Agencies

To understand why it's essential to have a cybersecurity partner, let's look at some of the data security risks that fire agencies like yours grapple with daily. Otherwise, it may not be sensible to prescribe a solution for a problem that you don't understand. Here are three of the most common types of cyberattacks on fire departments:

1. Ransomware

As the name suggests, it's a cyberattack vector in which the bad guys encrypt your files and deny you access and then demand ransom for decryption. It's one of the most lethal types of malware and costs businesses approximately $20 billion annually. A few years ago, Atlanta's municipal systems were part of a ransomware attack that caused widespread outages. Fire departments, and other essential service providers, had to halt temporarily, and the city spent over $2.7 million on emergency and recovery.

2. Phishing

Another widespread cybercrime to look out for is phishing. It involves cyber-attackers masquerading as known or legitimate entities to trick your users into divulging critical credentials. Typically, they'll email, text, or call you pretending to be your bank, insurance provider, credit card company, random person in distress, or any other individual you normally interact with and trust.

For fire agencies, they may masquerade as the federal government, mutual aid agencies, or non-profit organizations. Once they've won your trust, they ask you to verify your identity by giving them your username, password, or social security number. Beware—legitimate organizations do not ask for clients' personal information over the phone or online.

3. IoT Attacks

IoT (Internet of Things) are gadgets that can transmit data over networks but do not require human-to-computer or human-to-human contact. Perfect examples include fire alarms, thermal cameras, and smart sprinklers. The bad guys can hack these devices and use them to pry on you and see your sensitive information.

Tips on Protecting Your Fire Department Against Cyber Crime

We've highlighted just a few widespread cyber attackers on fire departments, but the list is way longer than this. So, how do you safeguard your systems? Consider using the following tips:

  • Use complex passwords and develop passcode expiration protocols
  • Regularly train your staff on cybersecurity awareness
  • Maintain offline, easy-to-retrieve backups
  • Implement Multi-Factor Authentication for your crucial files
  • Monitor your systems 24/7
  • Regularly assess your network for threats

Partner With a Reliable Chicagoland Cybersecurity Provider

As you can see, safeguarding your systems involves a lot. The best approach is to contact a reliable cybersecurity partner. That way, you can create more time for other things and access industry-leading expertise and tools. Outsourced cybersecurity partners have the advantage of experience and come with the best tools.


LeadingIT offers 24/7, all-inclusive, fast, and friendly technology and cybersecurity support for nonprofits, manufacturers, schools, accounting firms, religious organizations, government, and law offices with 10-200 employees across the Chicagoland area.