Relations between law enforcement officials and counterculture types have always been pretty since, but lately that conflict has spilled over into cyberspace. Police departments are increasingly finding themselves within the crosshairs of hacktivists and other cybercriminals. Unlike other cybercrime targets, law enforcement agencies are typically faced with the threat of network disruption instead of expensive data theft. But the cost of server downtime can adversely effect how police departments serve and protect communities.
NBC affiliate WOWT reported that the Omaha Police Department was recently targeted by the hacktivist group Anonymous which called on its members to launch cyberattacks against the agency's network. The call to action followed the release of an amateur video that allegedly displayed police officers intimidating citizens during an arrest. Although officials have yet to report any known network intrusions, the potential for calamity persists. Cybercriminals could disrupt the operability of key law enforcement systems such as computer aided dispatch networks, preventing police officers from communicating with one another during an emergency.
Additionally, the sensitive information contained on police department servers could be accessed by data thieves and displayed for all to see. Worldwide, multiple police departments have recently been victims of such attacks. According to The Hackers Post, the Police of Hong Hong website was hacked by a group calling itself the Portugal Cyber Army. A similar attack was launched against the Chinese Police website several days earlier. The cybercriminals stole information regarding sensitive police officer credentials which they then leaked online.
The danger cybercriminals pose to law enforcement departments is very real. By disrupting major resources such as communication networks, hackers can prevent police officers from protecting their communities effectively. To stop unwanted programs from running on critical networks, police departments should deploy whitelisting software tools which will allow only sanctioned applications to operate on their systems.