Arkansas fortifies cyber safeguards, boosts digital defense programs

December 17, 2023
1 min read
  • Over a 12-month period, Arkansas experienced 130 reported cyberattacks against its government at the state and local levels, more than twice the number reported in the previous year.
  • The Arkansas legislature recently passed two measures to strengthen the state’s response to cyber threats.
  • Arkansas colleges and universities have added multiple degree programs and bodies focused on cybersecurity in response to the growing threat.

In a concerning trend for cybersecurity, over a 12-month period, the Arkansas government at the state and local levels underwent 130 reported cyberattacks according to data by the Legislative Audit Committee inventory. This number is more than double the attacks reported the year prior.

Two of these attacks, which took place approximately a year ago, were particularly noteworthy. One attack targeted a vendor providing computer services to 72 Arkansas counties, causing a ransomware attack that shut down online services for multiple days. Some counties were affected for weeks or even months, and it interfered with the filing of deeds, tax collection, vehicle registration, and the issuing of marriage licenses. The other significant attack focused on the Little Rock School District and resulted in a $250,000 ‘ransom’ being paid to the hackers.

To combat this increase in cyber threats, the legislature passed two measures in 2023. Act 846 mandated the formation of the Arkansas Cyber Response Board to maintain a self-funded insurance program designed to protect counties, cities, and schools from damages caused by cyberattacks. In contrast, Act 504 of 2023 necessitates local governments to institute policies governing their use of technology and their strategy to manage cybersecurity.

In addition to these measures, Arkansas is also bolstering its cybersecurity through education. Many universities and colleges across the state offer multiple degrees and certificates specializing in cybersecurity. For instance, Southern Arkansas University now provides a Master of Science degree in Computer and Information Science, offering a cybersecurity and privacy option. Degrees of this nature are available at numerous campuses within the University of Arkansas system and the Arkansas State University system.

By implementing these measures and programs, Arkansas is hoping to prepare and fortify its cybersecurity infrastructure against potential threats and major disruptions in government services caused by cyberattacks.

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