UPDATED, March 18, 2020: Due to the growing threat of COVID-19 around the globe, Leading Cities will extend this year's AcceliGOV application deadline through April 30. Leading Cities and Blacksands are also offering AcceliGOV applicants free, unlimited secure connection-as-a-service (SCaaS) — the grand prize of the competition — for 90 days to increase the cybersecurity of their "emergency remote workforces."
"The last thing that a city needs during the Coronavirus crisis is to lose critical systems due to lack of staffing or a cyber-attack," Leading Cities wrote in a statement. "Cities must have a continuity of operations strategy which includes secure provisioning of remote access for employees immediately."
- Leading Cities launched the AcceliGOV initiative this week to give cities around the world a chance to compete for a pre-paid pilot of cybersecurity solutions.
- The winning city will receive services from Blacksands, which provides point-to-point encrypted connections for high value assets, helping municipal governments keep their digital infrastructure secure. Blacksands was selected as the 2019 AcceliCITY Champion, a previous competition from Leading Cities.
- The AcceliGOV competition was launched at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and is open to cities of all sizes. Applications are due by April 30.
Cyberattacks have targeted cities of all sizes in recent years, with hackers freezing city functions or holding data for ransom. Reported attacks have hit cities like Naples, FL; Medford, OR; Baltimore and Johannesburg, South Africa. Las Vegas confirmed last month that it too had been hit by a cyberattack, but with no serious consequences.
In one of the most high-profile and crippling attacks, Atlanta saw outages across the city’s systems, with digital records wiped in 2018. And the costs of such attacks can be high for cities. New Orleans confirmed in January that it cost the city $7.2 million to recover from a December cybertattack. The city's cybersecurity insurance covers just $3 million of those total costs, which are expected to continue growing.
Even as threats accelerate, with hackers realizing that cities make viable targets, cities remain largely unprepared. There's also some disagreement among cities about whether or not to pay ransoms. Although some cities do pay ransom to resume functions, over 225 mayors recently signed a pledge to not give in to hackers’ demands.
Most states allocate an insufficient amount of IT budgets to cybersecurity, and staffing remains a barrier to crafting effective cybersecurity policies, according to a 2018 Deloitte-NASCIO survey. Larger cities, including New York and Los Angeles, have tried to fill the gap by offering support to homegrown cybersecurity firms.
The Leading Cities competition would help meet that need for the winning city, providing access to the Blacksands platform and its encrypted connected services.
"Ensuring the protection of public data and having necessary defenses against the threat of a cybersecurity breach, is a foundational requirement of smart cities," said Leading Cities CEO Michael Lake in a statement. "Our local governments are vulnerable, and they have a very real responsibility and challenge to guarantee that municipal services, taxpayer’s money and any other city asset is adequately protected from cyber criminals."