Symantec Government Online User Group

Will Congress Help State and Local Cybersecurity? 

04-24-2017 01:05 PM

More than 80 percent of states lack the funding to develop a sufficient cybersecurity defense.

There are many ways to think about that percentage, but amazingly, there will be some that are surprised that number is so low. State governments are at the forefront of the cybersecurity battle, but unlike their partners in the federal government, find themselves more hampered by fiscal and personnel shortfalls.

To help state and local governments, a group of federal lawmakers recently introduced the State Cyber Resiliency Act. The act would leverage the existing State Cyber Resiliency Grant program to assist state, local and tribal governments in preventing, preparing for, protecting against, and responding to cyber threats. Basically, it is sending a lifeline to state and local governments.

States already can access federal funding through a Homeland Security grant program, but that pot of money rarely is distributed for cybersecurity. The program was created to support anti-terrorism and police training, and the funding usually ends up being used for emergency preparedness and first responders.

For states, more resources are needed for more effective cyber programs. Like the federal government, states house personal information of most every man, woman and child within their borders. States, though, typically lack the financial resources to invest heavily in cyber defenses and, even if they did, must fight a very real talent shortage of trained cyber personnel. That is doubly true in rural areas that lack a strong private technology presence.

This program seems like a great idea. While state and local governments may be behind now, it is an excellent time to invest in cybersecurity resources, especially in integrated, comprehensive solutions that are developed to work together to offer a holistic capability. With end-to-end cybersecurity solutions, state and local governments can now be assured that their cybersecurity posture can adequately protect their networks, while offering them visibility into emerging threats.

No matter how far behind state and local agencies find themselves they can quickly catch up to protect the critical information floating around their networks. The Trump administration, so far, has made cybersecurity a priority and this bill from Congress shows the strong commitment that lawmakers are showing for improved cybersecurity from the feds on down.

Dan Lohrmann, the longtime Chief Information Security Officer for the state of Michigan, talked about how a program like this would have been beneficial during his time working in state government.

“We were able to get millions of dollars in federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants for cybersecurity for many different projects, ranging from new generators for data centers to anti-spam appliances to new encryption for laptops,” he wrote in an article on Government Technology. “Those grant dollars launched Michigan into the forefront of government cybersecurity leadership at the time, enabling us to implement many cyber protections and stop ongoing cyberattacks.”

This bill was recently introduced and sent for committee consideration. It is definitely one worth following as it offers states and localities an aid in acquiring key resources to improve their cyber defenses.

The State Cyber Resiliency Act has been introduced in both the House and Senate. If you are interested in keeping up-to-date on the progress of each, here are the direct links – House, Senate.

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