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State and Local Government Cybersecurity

Protecting Digital Assets and Critical Infrastructure Against Growing Advanced Threats


Although an increasingly consolidated news media focuses much of its attention on the activities of the federal government, state and local governments are responsible for a variety of services that impact the everyday lives of every resident. Critical infrastructure like roads, bridges, water and sewage systems, and public transportation are operated by state and local entities. Elections—even for federal offices—are administrated locally. Driver’s licenses and other forms of identification are issued by the state government. And a vast majority of law enforcement personnel are employees of state and local entities.

This broad array of service offerings makes state and local governments attractive to a variety of cyber criminals. Critical infrastructure is attractive to nation-state actors looking to create chaos and sow discord. The fact that personal information from every resident can be found in state databases is of interest to cyber criminals seeking to sell that information on the dark web. Hackers can shut down the IT systems of local governments in order to extract ransoms from desperate entities. And hacktivists can wreak havoc with state and local government IT systems to make a political point.

Entities funded by taxpayers almost always operate on limited budgets, and many use some legacy technologies as a result. But many state and local governments have embraced digital technology to provide better service—and more transparency—to their citizens. As a result, innovative models of shared services between governments, innovation labs, and new approaches to Internet-of-Things (IoT)-enhanced public service are now on the agenda. These advancements promise to improve customer service, public engagement, and community cohesiveness. But they also expand the attack surface.

Fortinet State-Local Government Cybersecurity Solutions

Fortinet State-Local Government Cybersecurity Solutions

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Why State and Local Governments Must Work Together for Cyber Defense

Why State and Local Governments Must Work Together for Cyber Defense

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Integration of Voice, Cyber, and Physical Security

State and local governments maintain thousands of miles of water mains, sewage systems, roadways, public transportation lines, and other critical infrastructure—many of which are controlled and monitored with Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices. These connected sensors and cameras geographically extend a government’s IT infrastructure—and its attack surface. Like other critical infrastructure, these systems can be the target of cyber criminals and nation-state actors whose goal is operational disruption, economic losses for the community, or even loss of life.

Such infrastructure can also be subject to coordinated cyber/physical attacks. As a result, protecting it involves an integrated approach to both cyber and physical security. Such integration will become increasingly important as emerging facial recognition and weapons detection technology come online. Adding voice communications to the integrated architecture improves operational efficiency and enhances security.

The Fortinet Security Fabric enables state and local governments to integrate cybersecurity, physical security, wireless networking, and voice communications infrastructures for comprehensive protection. Cameras, recorders, IP phones, voice systems, and wireless networking are all a part of the Fortinet Security Fabric. Analytics tools can provide reporting and analysis on this entire infrastructure, supplemented by presence analytics technology to identify where Wi-Fi users accessed the network. And network access control monitors and verifies all these devices to protect the network.

FortiNAC provides visibility across the entire network and the ability to control access for all devices and users, including dynamic, automated responses. FortiFone IP-enabled phones provide a feature-rich experience with high-quality audio and dedicated keys for the most common features. FortiVoice Enterprise systems include all the fundamentals of enterprise-class voice communications, with no additional licenses to buy or cards to install. The Fortinet Security Fabric delivers a unified approach to cybersecurity that is broad, integrated, and automated. FortiCamera offers a suite of secure, network-based video cameras to incorporate physical cybersecurity with network cybersecurity and bolster protection against cyber-physical attacks. FortiRecorder records footage from security cameras with scheduled or manual recording and continuous or motion-activated activation. FortiNAC provides visibility across the entire network and the ability to control access for all devices and users, including dynamic, automated responses. FortiSIEM simplifies security information and event management by delivering visibility, automated response, and fast remediation in a single solution. FortiPresence provides insight into the physical movement of people within OT sites both in real time and across time periods by leveraging the existing onsite Fortinet access points to detect each person’s smartphone Wi-Fi signal.
Integration of Voice, Cyber and Physical Security Diagram NAC Phone Voice Security Fabric Camera Recorder NAC SIEM Presence
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Secure Remote Sites

Even smaller local governments have multiple locations from which different kinds of services are delivered, and larger ones have hundreds or thousands of assorted facilities. Providing connections between these branches and the main IT infrastructure has historically required expensive multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) infrastructure that was difficult to scale according to fluctuations in traffic, and the increasing use of cloud-based services often results in latency.

In response to these problems, software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN) technology has moved into the mainstream in the past few years. SD-WAN enables network traffic to travel on the public internet. To keep such a network secure, the SD-WAN technology should ideally be integrated with the cybersecurity infrastructure—and with the networking infrastructure at the remote location.

FortiGate next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) include highly secure SD-WAN technology, allowing network traffic to travel not only on the public internet but also over a virtual WAN (vWAN) within select public clouds. At the remote location, Fortinet SD-Branch solutions extend the Fortinet Security Fabric to the access layer at each branch. This enables secure networking at branches—regardless of their size—and consistent security coverage from the internet, to the wireless network, to the switching infrastructure

FortiAP delivers secure, wireless access to distributed enterprises and branch offices and can be easily managed as a physical appliance or via the cloud. FortiSwitch offers a broad portfolio of secure, simple, and scalable Ethernet access layer switches to deliver superior security, performance, and manageability. FortiExtender provides LTE connectivity to wireless and cellular networks for both primary and secondary/backup WAN connections for use in locations such as branch offices, retail pop-up stores, point-of-sale (POS) systems, and more. FortiNAC provides visibility across the entire network and the ability to control access for all devices and users, including dynamic, automated responses.
Secure Remote Sites Diagram AP Switches Extender NAC
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Digital Government

State government networks host extremely sensitive data, and that data is increasingly distributed across public and hybrid cloud environments. Many entities also host myriad Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices at a vast number of locations and have dozens of citizen-centric applications. As entities adopt more and more services across this distributed architecture, the default is to use the built-in cybersecurity tools offered by each public cloud provider. However, these solutions do not communicate with each other. The result is multiple silos in the security architecture, necessitating a lot of manual work on the part of busy cybersecurity team members in reporting and threat response.

As state and local government networks get more complex and the threat landscape becomes more advanced, it is increasingly important to simplify the security architecture by achieving integration and consistent policy management across the infrastructure.

Fortinet Adaptive Cloud Security solutions, part of the Fortinet Security Fabric, deliver this integration by providing a single-pane-of-glass view of the entire cloud infrastructure. They feature native integration with all major public cloud providers, broad protection to cover all elements of the attack surface, and management and automation features that enable consistent, timely threat detection and response through automation.


FortiGate VM and SaaS offerings perform inspection of traffic entering and leaving the cloud, including SSL/TLS encrypted traffic. FortiCWP evaluates and monitors cloud configurations, pinpoints misconfigurations, and analyzes traffic across cloud resources. FortiWeb web application firewall secures cloud-based resources and DevOps environments by protecting against known and unknown threats, including sophisticated threats such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting, buffer overflows, and DDoS attacks. FortiCASB manages access to valuable cloud applications and data across multi-cloud deployments. FortiNAC provides visibility across the entire network and the ability to control access for all devices and users, including dynamic, automated responses. FortiClient and FortiEDR strengthen endpoint security through integrated visibility, control, detection, response, and proactive defense and enable organizations to discover, monitor, and assess endpoint risks in real time.
Digital Government Diagram Virtual NGFW CWP WAF CASB NAC Endpoint
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Key State and Local Government Cybersecurity Challenges


Cost Optimization

State and local governments operate on limited budgets, and citizens are usually skeptical about proposed increases in spending. This sometimes results in reluctance on the part of elected officials to support major projects, not wanting to incur the wrath of voters. As a result, IT staff must be strategic about budget and resource allocation, with risks prioritized according to the potential impact on citizens and institutions. As the volume and velocity of attacks increase, state and local governments often do not have the option of adding headcount to address the issue. And even if new positions are approved, the cybersecurity skills shortage means that filling them will be very expensive.

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Targeted Threats

State and local governments have recently been heavily targeted with threats like ransomware. While some entities have refused to pay the ransom, others have no choice but to pay up. As a result, adversaries will target them in this way for the foreseeable future. Smaller entities often lack both the budget and the expertise to fight back, and larger governments might face extremely high remediation costs if they choose not to pay the ransom.

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Digital Government Transformation

Many state and local governments are implementing digital transformation (DX) strategies, notably migration of some or all services to the cloud and deployment of IoT devices such as sensors across critical infrastructure. However, these projects have slowed in the past year, and entities indicate that their migration strategies have proven more complicated, costly, and time-consuming than initially expected. Further, they need help with proper selection of service and deployment models and scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities provided as a service. IoT devices often lack adequate built-in security, and a fragmented security architecture can hamper efforts to harden them against attack.

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Integration of Security Architecture

As the attack surface expands for a state or local government, cybersecurity teams scramble to fill coverage gaps with point products. Over time, this results in a highly siloed security architecture filled with solutions that do not integrate or communicate with each other. This architectural fragmentation results in decreased visibility, delayed threat response, and operational inefficiencies. It also creates cost inefficiencies due to siloed, overlapping software and hardware license costs.

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Compliance Reporting

Governments are accountable to the public, and compliance information is often a matter of public record. They must achieve and report compliance with regulations about the handling of personal information, protection of critical infrastructure, and environmental standards. Audits are frequent enough that redeploying staff to manual audit preparation each time will significantly slow the strategic initiatives they are working on with the remainder of their time.

Fortinet Differentiators for State and Local Government Cybersecurity

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Integrated Platform

Fortinet delivers a flexible platform for building an end-to-end, integrated security architecture. This integration can span from a state or local government’s critical infrastructure to its public services, from the data center to the endpoint to multiple clouds, and from physical security to voice communications to cybersecurity. It includes an open application programming interface (API) and Fabric Connectors to integrate third-party security tools.

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Remote Location Networking and Security

Fortinet offers a comprehensive software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN), networking, and cybersecurity infrastructure for branch locations and field sites that provides optimal security and improves network performance. Network traffic can securely travel over the public internet, helping state and local governments avoid the high cost of multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) connections.

threat protection

Insider Threat Protection

Governments face especially high risk from third parties and insiders who perpetrate accidental and deliberate attacks. Fortinet delivers a comprehensive solution to guard against these threats with identity and access management tools supplemented by network access controlintent-based segmentationdeception technology, and user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA).

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Robust Threat Intelligence

FortiGuard Labs delivers comprehensive intelligence from a large global network of next-generation firewallssandboxes, and an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered self-evolving detection system (SEDS) that has refined its algorithms using machine learning (ML) training for nearly eight years. The result: extremely accurate detection of new threats with almost no false positives.

industry leadership

Industry Leadership

Fortinet is recognized as a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Network Firewalls. The company has also achieved nine “Recommended” ratings from NSS Labs and achieved the best score in its NGFW Security Value Map.