The hearing focused on recent cyberattacks in Bucks County
HARRISBURG – Cybersecurity threats faced by local governments and municipal authorities were the focus of a public hearing Wednesday held by the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, chaired by Sen. Tracy Pennycuick.
Pennycuick, a Republican representing northern Montgomery County including Limerick, and state Sen. Sen. Rosemary M. Brown, a Republican representing northeast Pennsylvania, chaired the hearing.
Recent cyberattacks targeting the Bucks County emergency dispatch system and the Aliquippa Water Authority highlight the vulnerability of Pennsylvania’s more than 2,500 local governments and authorities.
“An unfortunate reality of our world is that no organization is immune to a cyberattack,” Pennycuick said. “The havoc and serious damage that these incursions can have on local governments, public authorities and the people they serve are not only disruptive, but also present a direct threat to public safety.”
The Jan. 23 incident that targeted Bucks County’s emergency dispatch has been traced to a ransomware called “Akira.”
The attack didn’t impact responses to emergency calls but did affect the use of cellphone apps for fire call notifications. In the November hack of Aliquippa’s water system, attackers were able to disable pressure monitoring equipment.
Federal officials said adversaries likely gained access to the system by exploiting weak or default passwords and internet connection.
“These incidents are a part of a growing trend and will only become more prevalent in the future,” Pennycuick said. “Now is the time to take these threats seriously and work together to find a path to put the commonwealth on a better cybersecurity footing.”
The joint panel also heard from representatives of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, the Pennsylvania Municipal League and information technology provider Unisys.