California is known for many things: beaches, celebrities and surfing are a few, but its citizens would probably rather not be associated with cybercrime. However, no other state in America has been more affected by hackers in recent years than California. According to a recent study on the frequency and type of cyberthreats reported in the U.S., California was responsible for the greatest number of received complaints regarding cybercrime in 2012. The Golden State accounted for more than 13 percent of the total number of complaints recorded in the U.S. last year.
The formation of a cybercrime task force
Government officials have recently taken steps to turn the tide against cybercriminals. Working in conjunction with members of the private sector, state authorities began talks to create the California Cybersecurity Task Force. The task force is the first of its kind to bring state and private business leaders together to address cybercrime.
According to officials working on the project, collaboration between the public and private sector is essential to effectively take on the threat posed by cybercriminals. One of the main reasons for this is that today's IT assets are no longer clearly demarcated between the two areas. What happens to one has repercussions for the other, particularly when the state's IT infrastructure is affected.
"California really is out in front of other states," State CIO Carlo Ramos said. "We've seen a number of areas, particularly in technology, where governments tend to follow our lead. I am quite hopeful, from that perspective — the framework and the work that we do here — that other states will take and emulate and put in place across the country."
Taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity
Ramos identified a number of threats facing government agencies, private businesses and residents alike, including cyberspies, hacktivists and financially-motivated thieves. All could potentially wreak havoc on California's interconnected infrastructure. Officials want to take a proactive approach to fighting cybercrime. On a broad scale, authorities hope to increase public awareness of cybersecurity and to establish better communication between the private sector and government agencies about potential and imminent threats.
Among many other concerns regarding cybersecurity, the state has recently seen a surge of unauthorized software appearing on its networks, including those operated by government agencies and corporate enterprises. These programs could potentially provide hackers with an open door to systems housing sensitive information. One of the ways to combat this threat is for system administrators to deploy application control tools to prevent this software from launching. Utilizing whitelisting capabilities, IT members can ensure that only the programs they authorize can run on critical machines.