Columbus – With cyberattacks on governments increasing, Ohio Auditor Dave Yost has announced a series of training seminars to help local government leaders in Ohio combat cyberattacks. Already, more than 560 local officials have registered for the free training.

“These hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated and are looking for data-rich targets,” Auditor Yost said. “Governments by the very nature of what they do have a great deal of information that these cyber criminals are after. We need to do all we can to help local leaders fortify their governments to protect data and the interests of the citizens they serve.”

Auditor Yost last summer encouraged local government leaders to create contingencies for cyberattacks when he recognized the increase was occurring. His call for action came after a number of local governments were defrauded of money, had to pay a ransom to regain control of their data or an attempted attack was thwarted.

Most recently, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District announced on March 1 that it had been hacked by a phishing scheme. On Jan. 31, Licking County was hacked – shutting down its system for a week. Other governments in Ohio have either lost data, lost money or paid money to cybercriminals to get their data back. One school district in Central Ohio was duped into sending nearly $40,000 to a fake account – not because school officials were sloppy, but because the hackers are increasingly sophisticated. And an Eastern Ohio court had to pay a ransom in bitcoin to have its data released from the clutches of cybercriminals.

“This problem isn’t going away. It’s getting worse,” Yost said. “We know many local communities are strapped for resources, and some haven’t taken steps to protect their digital assets. We in the Auditor’s office have the ability to help local leaders prevent personal information from getting into the hands of evildoers, and that’s why we’re doing this training.”

The training sessions will be held in eight communities across Ohio so that it is accessible and inexpensive for local officials. Auditor Yost partnered with local sheriffs to host the events. The training will help local officials understand how and why governments are attacked, how to minimize their risk, how to identify digital threats, what to do if your government is attacked, and answer other questions such as how bitcoin works.

Leading the training is Nicole Beckwith, an investigator and digital forensic analyst for the Auditor of State. Beckwith is a recognized expert on cybersecurity, policy, cyberterrorism and is trained in computer forensics, network investigations and network intrusion response.

Local leaders can register for the free training here. The training schedule is as follows:

Elyria – Wednesday, March 22, 9-11 a.m.

Lorain County Community College

Sheriff Phil R. Stammitti

Hamilton – Wednesday, March 29, 9-11 a.m.

Butler Tech Public Safety Education Complex

Sheriff Richard K. Jones

Findlay – Wednesday, April 5, 9-11 a.m.

University of Findlay

Sheriff Michael E. Heldman

Ashland – Wednesday, April 5, 2:30-4:30 p.m.

Ashland County Public Library

Sheriff E. Wayne Risner

Marietta – Wednesday, May 3, 9-11 a.m.

Washington State Community College

Sheriff Larry R. Mincks Sr.

Steubenville – Wednesday, May 3, 2:30-4:30 p.m.

Jefferson County ESC George-Pugliese Training Annex

Sheriff Fred J. Abdalla

Dayton – Wednesday, May 10, 9-11 a.m.

Montgomery County Educational Service Center

Sheriff Phil Plummer

Delaware – Wednesday, May 10, 2:30-4:30 p.m.

Frank B. Willis Government Building

Sheriff Russell L. Martin