Government officials in Utah have revealed an increase in the number of hacking attacks targeting their computer networks, sometimes even hundreds of millions a day.
Keith Squires, Utah Commissioner of Public Safety said that the state government has seen a dramatic increase in hacking attempts. Five years ago the number of attacks was only between 25,000 and 80,000 a day. Meanwhile, in 2015, the state government had “peak” days where there were over 300,000,000 attacks.
Squires went on to clarify that although other state governments in the US are seeing increases in the number of hack attempts, most of them are not experiencing it on the scale that Utah does. The state has had problems with hackers for a long time. Several years ago a group of hackers managed to take the Salt Lake City Police Department offline for months after the Utah legislature debated outlawing graffiti.
However, it seems like this time the groups targeting the state might be much more sophisticated. Squires confirmed that the state has experienced attacks from other nation states although it refused to name which countries were involved.
One reason why hackers might be targeting Utah is because the state hosts a massive secret NSA Data Centre. Although the NSA is a federal agency and state and federal computer systems are separate, hackers hope that hacking the state government network they could find a way into NSA systems.
The State of Utah’s Information Security Director, whose name cannot be made public for security reasons, said that he suspects that hackers are also attracted to Utah because of the advanced weapons system at Hill Air Force Base and the increasing number of tech companies which are based in the state.
Neil Wyler, a computer expert who helps businesses and organizations protect themselves from hackers said that the only way that the state agencies can deal with such a large number of attacks is by classifying attacks based on their seriousness and prioritizing responding to the serious ones.
He added, though, that complacency towards the attacks scares him more than the sheer number of attacks themselves. Once people get used to such a large number of attacks being carried out daily, they stop seeing them as a real threat. And if the state government is seeing such a large number of attacks, personal devices and networks are likely experiencing something of a similar scale.