Florida Continues to be Proactive in Cybersecurity

Governor Rick Scott calls for a new cybersecurity unit to be created to monitor security threats and suspicious activity, along with increased funds targeted specifically to protect against election tampering from outside hackers and cybersecurity training for state agency leaders.

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Representing a starting point from which Florida’s state Senate and House of Representatives will each submit their own respective state budgets, Scott’s recommendations for cybersecurity are ambitious in his $87.4 billion 2018–2019 state budget proposal released November 14. The state of Florida recognizes that it has a vital role in identifying, protecting, and responding to cyberthreats that may have significant impact to our individual and collective security and privacy, according to Scott.

Concerned there is a growing threat to Florida’s election systems, the governor is requesting nearly $2.4 million in the coming year on cybersecurity efforts designed to protect election-related software and systems from outside hackers. He is also asking that legislators set aside $1.9 million in grants for the state’s 67 local election supervisors. The grants would be used to monitor security threats and suspicious activity.

Though there is no indication that any voting or ballot counting was affected in last year’s election, a classified report suggested hackers linked to Russian intelligence stole information from voting systems nationwide. Paul Lux, the Okaloosa County elections supervisor, said that officials have to assume that hackers are “coming back at you harder next time.”

Scott is also calling for nearly $500,000 to hire five employees for a new cybersecurity unit that would be created in the Department of State, which includes the state Division of Elections. The department’s request to the legislature said the unit would not focus exclusively on elections but would also focus on other critical systems, including the department’s electronic business filing system. The unit is needed because it is critically important that the Department continue to be proactive against growing threats.

Scott is also recommending the state commit to funding cybersecurity training for agency leaders in his 2018–2019 state budget, which would make an annual expense of nearly a quarter-million dollars in ongoing education. The governor proposes making a recurring annual expense of $220,000 to provide IT security training to security managers across 35 state agencies.

Florida’s Agency for State Technology (AST), established by the legislature in 2014, sets IT policy, manages related resources, and oversees crucial tech projects. The goals of the Florida Agency for State Technology are to ensure Floridians’ information and access to government services are protected, to increase government efficiency by continuously improving information technology services, and to protect the state’s investment in large IT projects.

“Protecting Floridians’ data and personal information is critical, and this investment will support AST as they work every day to find innovative ways to keep this information secure and make Florida a leader in information technology,” Scott said.

Earlier this year, AST coordinated a week of on-site and virtual SANS Institute cybersecurity training for about 150 officials in three states, including more than 100 information security managers in state government.