(The Center Square) – Local governments and schools relied on the internet to stay connected during the pandemic, but hackers were busy at work trying to exploit weaknesses in computer systems to steal money and personal information.
A number of New Hampshire communities have been targeted by hackers in the past two years, authorities say, including an attack on the town of Peterborough where cyber criminals were able to steal more than $2.3 million in public funds.
State lawmakers are considering the number of proposals and are tightening the state’s cyber security laws and preventing hackers from targeting local governments and schools.
One proposal, which was recently approved by the House Committee on Municipal and County Government, would require local governments to immediately notify the state if their computer systems are hacked.
Rep. Julie Gilman, D-Exeter, a member of the committee, said local governments need to move quickly when a hack begins to prevent loss of revenue.
“The state needs to know as soon as possible in order to have the least amount of damage done to whatever trickery is going on,” she said during a recent hearing on the bill.
Committee member Rep. Patricia Klee, D-Nashua, said there is a sense of urgency to improve communication between state and local government agencies on cyber security issues.
“We need to put something like this in place so that all parties are notified as quickly as possible so we can mitigate the impacts,” she said. “Because it can happen fast like a wildfire.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center logged 791,790 suspected internet crimes in 2020 – an increase of more than 300,000 from 2019. Reported losses exceeded $4.2 billion.
Topping the list of crimes were “phishing” scams, nonpayment/non-delivery scams and internet-based extortion, the agency said.
There were more than 2,015 victims of cybercrimes in New Hampshire in 2020, with losses topping $4.9 million. Many of those victims were elderly, the FBI said.
Experts say that businesses, local governments and hospitals have been popular targets during the pandemic. Attacks range from malware, ransomware and email phishing scams to old-fashioned cons using the internet to trick people.
Many perpetrators operate from overseas, with ties to rogue nations and criminal gangs, making it hard to catch them.