INDIANAPOLIS – Amid concerns over possible retaliatory cyberattacks from Russia, Indiana officials are working to make sure businesses and government agencies are taking the proper precautions.

Cyberattacks have already been on the rise – according to state officials, ransomware attacks nearly doubled in the U.S. in 2021 compared to the previous year.

“There is no time to let down your guard,” said Gary Mayor Jerome Prince.

Prince is all too familiar with the consequences of a cyberattack. Last year, criminals targeted all of his city’s government agencies, including the police and fire departments.

Fortunately, Gary officials had backup systems, so the city didn’t pay the attackers, Prince said. Still, it took two weeks and $350,000 to get the city’s network restored and hire a cybersecurity firm to prevent another attack.

“This is a very real situation, and if not addressed properly and timely, it could be crippling to an organization,” Prince said.

“Local governments are most certainly a key target,” said Chetrice Mosley-Romero, director of the Indiana Cybersecurity Program.

State officials are trying to educate Hoosiers about cyber preparedness through an online campaign, Mosley-Romero said.

The Indiana Office of Technology and Indiana Department of Homeland Security are also touring the state to talk with public institutions and learn about their cybersecurity needs, according to Graig Lubsen, Indiana Office of Technology communications director.

“IOT offers domains, websites, an email and office productivity suite, hardware purchasing and cybersecurity training, etc.,” Lubsen said in an email sent Thursday. “So far, 60 local governments are using state-built website templates, which come with all the security, accessibility and user-centered design of the state government websites.”

Since November, the group has visited 41 counties, with 11 more scheduled in the coming weeks, Lubsen said.

“Even if you’re not an IT person, you can do a lot as a manager to secure your organization,” Mosley-Romero said.

Meanwhile, officials have worked to make sure state government agencies are protected.

“We have hardened and taken additional measures to make sure that we’re paying close attention to everything that we do,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said Thursday.

Cybersecurity has also been a top priority for the Indiana Secretary of State’s office, said spokesperson Allen Carter.

“The Secretary of State’s office constantly monitors cybersecurity threats,” Carter said in a statement. “In Indiana, elections are administered at the local level, and our office works and consults with county election administrators to ensure our elections are safe, secure and free of outside interference.”

State officials also have resources on their website for businesses and government agencies to learn more about best practices to protect themselves. For more information, click here.