Federal, State Cyber Resiliency Requires Action

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It is no shock that our state and local infrastructures are some of the most sought-after targets for foreign and malicious cyber attackers, but the real surprise lies in the lack of preventive measures that are able to curb them. Major attention has been drawn to the critical gaps that exist as a result of an ever-expanding attack surface, making old system architectures an increasing liability.

Recently, the city of Albany, New York became a victim of a ruthless ransomware attack, which created a series of municipal service interruptions. Residents weren’t able to use the city’s services to obtain birth certificates, death certificates or marriage licenses, and the police department’s networks were rendered inoperable for an entire day. This resulted in an enormous disruption of the city’s functionality and made clear that the threat to infrastructure is more real than ever. Bolstering state and local digital defenses should be of the utmost priority, especially as we near the 2020 presidential elections when further attacks on election infrastructure are expected. We must take the necessary precautions to mitigate cyberattack risk.

The reintroduction of the State Cyber Resiliency Act by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Michael McCaul (R-TX), does just that. The legislation demonstrates a critical bipartisan effort to ensure that state, local and tribal governments have a robust capacity to strengthen their defenses against cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). States have made clear that they suffer from inadequate resources to deal with increasingly sophisticated attacks, but also the most basic attacks, which require proper safeguards and baseline protection. This bill works to strategically address the challenges posed by a lack of resources to deal with emerging threats.

The possibility of cyber warfare must not be taken lightly and has long gone ignored. This bill shows that the status quo of kicking the can further down the road will no longer stand as a “strategy” in today’s political and cybersecurity landscape. Action is necessary to better secure our national security and the systems upon which every sector of our economy relies, from utilities to banking to emergency first responders to hospital networks to election infrastructure. It is our responsibility to create and support the safeguards against bad actors looking for gaps in our infrastructure.

The bill makes states eligible for grants to implement comprehensive, flexible cybersecurity plans that address continuous vulnerability monitoring, protection for critical infrastructure systems and a resilient cybersecurity workforce. States would also be able to repurpose funds to various local and tribal governments. In addition, the bill would implement a 15-person committee to review the proposed plans and track the spending of state and local governments. This committee would help states and localities formulate and deliver annual reports to Congress that detail the program’s progress. The specific funding was not disclosed, but this effort showcases the timeliness of the issue and why it is such an imperative step at this stage in time.

We must take basic steps to ensure the security of our state and local systems, and enable systems to be patched, maintained and protected from outside threats. This bill is a welcomed and needed effort by lawmakers to address the existing challenges states and local governments and infrastructures are dealing with every day.  As adversaries become increasingly sophisticated and targeted in their attack strategies, we have a responsibility to best equip states and localities with the necessary tools to close gaps and mitigate gaps.

We at McAfee are committed to partnering with federal, state and local governments to equip them with the best strategies to create a better and more secure cybersecurity future.

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