Dear Chief/Sheriff,

You're going to get fired ...

By Elijah Woodward  |   Oct 25, 2015

Dear Chief/Sheriff:

You’re going to get fired.

I know, this isn’t the letter you were hoping for today. But please, keep reading, because I do have some good news.

But, first, bear with me while I tell you a little bit about the world right now.

In Dec., 2013, Target got breached. The result? The CEO lost his job.

Last year Sony pictures America got breached. The result? The CEO lost her job.

In 2014, the “Obamacare” website went online and was a disaster. The result? Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary … lost her job.

See the pattern?

Organizations are getting hit rather hard when they’re getting data breaches these days. This includes police departments. Up to this point, the biggest newsmaker for police and data issues has been cryptolocker/ransomware (the viruses that lock your computer or network files until you pay a ransom) and even then, that’s quite embarrassing.

Now if that wasn’t enough, we’ve already seen a number of cases where police officials have been targeted by online activists (“hacktivists,” so to speak) that are threatening to post their personal info and wreck their identities (John Belmar from St Louis County, Mo.).

Add in the successful intrusion of the personal email account of the CIA Chief John Brennan this week and do the math.

It’s only a matter of time until an American police chief or sheriff will be hacked. There will be embarrassment and public shaming, and ultimately they will have to quit or be fired.

Who’s it going to be?

According to the Police Executive Research Forum, there are more than 18,000 state and local agencies in the United States. Do you realize you’re taking a chance that you will be one in 18,000? To be publicly disgraced, tarred and feathered, and that you will ultimately lose your job?

With that kind of penalty, those aren’t odds I’d like to take.

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police has a website dedicated to cyber information called the Law Enforcement Cyber Center.

Additionally, there are a number of partnerships you can look in to including the MS-ISAC which is specifically designed to help State, Local, Town, and Tribal governments. Check it out! For the phenomenal resource it is, it doesn’t have nearly enough members. Police should be leading the charge to get their local governments involved with this excellent organization.

Another great resource is an FBI program known as InfraGard. I recently joined the board of directors for AZ InfraGard to help build and guide this organization to protect our critical infrastructure. And guess what? First responders are critical infrastructure!

In the 2014 study called The Role of Local Law Enforcement Agencies In Preventing and Investigating Cybercrime PERF called on local departments to get more involved in cybercrime, and also included recommendations for finding and developing cybercrime talent. (Hint-hint, you’ve probably already hired a cybercrime expert and you didn’t even know it!)

This can also be a great way to engage your younger workforce. In the 2014 PERF document Future Trends in Policing they specifically mention specialization as a way to keep those dastardly millennials engaged in your workforce! Page 38 specifically states, “One way to do this is allowing officers to specialize.

“With this new generation, I think there’s really going to be an emphasis on allowing people to grow and thrive in a specialty,” Ederheimer said. “This is contrary to the traditional generalist policing, but I think it would help meet a need and keep people at police departments.”

To emphasize this, let me tell you a little story first.

A friend of mine with a sheriff’s department in Florida was recently involved in putting together a cyber security tabletop and exercise for his county. He worked hard, got great engagement, and it involved the executives of every single department from the entire county. Well, except for one. His own sheriff’s department didn’t send a single person. Not one. Why? Ego and politics within the county. 

The choice is yours.

But please, for the sake of our profession, your department, and your family, please start taking steps to protect yourself and your organization.

Sincerely,

All of us.

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Elijah Woodward
Elijah Woodward is the owner of SavageCyberSpace.com, a security consulting company focusing on information and cyber security as well as physical security. He has 10 years of law enforcement experience working in patrol, motors, and community resources. He is a member of the FBI’s InfraGard program, and the High Technology Crime Investigator’s Association. Elijah believes that law enforcement is in a prime position to address the issues of cyber crime and fraud, and it will be cops at the local level who will have the greatest impact on these new crimes as they continue to plague our communities. Reach him at [email protected]