Cybercriminals often target smaller state and local governments (SLGs) because they know these smaller agencies lack the resources to build a strong IT department, according to cybersecurity experts.

During MeriTalk’s “Power and Promise: Modern Tools to Deliver Secure Citizen Services” webinar, underwritten by Dell Technologies, state and local IT experts shared challenges smaller SLGs often face when trying to mitigate cyber threats.

“What we’re seeing across the nation is obviously there’s a huge amount of cybercrime,” Rob Silverberg, chief strategy and innovation officer for state and local government at Dell Technologies, said during the webinar. “So, one of the biggest risks to outdated infrastructure is it leaves vulnerabilities for hackers, for cybercriminals.”

“Interestingly enough, the cybercriminals are targeting smaller state and local government agencies because they know they don’t have the staff. They don’t have the funding,” he added. “They know there are vulnerabilities.”

To advance technology efforts in state and local governments, these smaller agencies rely on executive leadership and elected officials to advocate for change.

In the town of Gilbert, Ariz., Deputy Chief Technology Officer Eugene Mejia said his town’s leaders have helped to position Gilbert as “a forward-thinking organization” through the use of technology.

Mejia said his town’s officials have provided the “needed support” to transition how Gilbert delivers tech services, both internally and externally to the community. While he noted Gilbert is “far from perfect,” Mejia said his team tries to increase efficiency and do “more with less,” as any local government must.

“Technology will drive business outcomes and deliver the values that you need across all departments and lines of service,” he said. “That has really put us on our trajectory to become the city of the future. It’s really a vision that our town manager has set forth that we need to continue to sustain and improve the quality of life for the citizens we serve.”

“This is where our IT department has really been thoughtful about our approach to how we invest in solutions, both on-premise and in the cloud, and really living in this hybrid world and understanding the importance that delivers when it comes to augmenting services to create the extension of our teams that act as force multipliers – because this is not something that we can do alone,” Mejia added.

However, not all SLGs have leaders that will advocate for more IT funding. Frank Miller III, a business strategist at Dell Technologies, said that many of the SLGs he works with do not have the necessary funding to update their outdated infrastructure.

“There are a lot of smaller cities out there that don’t have a very robust IT department,” Miller said. “The IT departments in most of the cities that I deal with have very little power in earmarking funds to make these types of changes that would improve a city’s infrastructure from a technology perspective.”

Having outdated IT infrastructure only increases the risk of being infected with ransomware or becoming a victim of a data breach, according to Silverberg. He said it can be a challenge for local agencies to determine how to best mitigate cyber risks with outdated operating systems.