Michigan's Fighting a Cyber Battle Government Will 'Never Win'
By Kathleen Gray
The number of daily attacks on the state government's computer systems is staggering and growing in both incidents and cost.
Every day, the state stops about 730,000 attacks on its IT network, ranging from spam and phishing e-mails to malicious bots designed to slow or shut a computer network down.
The House Communications and Technology Committee heard from David Behen, director of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, Tuesday about the efforts made by the state, in concert with the Michigan State Police and Michigan National Guard, to ensure the state's massive computer network stays safe.
The state already spends about $22 million a year on cyber security, and Gov. Rick Snyder has asked for a bump of $7 million in the 2015-16 budget year, which begins Oct. 1.
That money will go toward strengthening the state's hardware and software systems, Behen said, as well as continuously monitoring the systems by 50 state employees, as well as private partners.
So far, it has worked relatively well, Behen said, but the state needs to remain vigilant against increasingly sophisticated hackers.
"Thankfully, we block the majority of attacks, but some get through," he said, noting hackers have succeeded in shutting down the state's computer systems three or four times in the last year for a couple of hours
"It's just going to increase. Last year, it was 540,000 attacks a day and now we're at 730,000," he said. "Unfortunately, it's just a part of business today. It's something we have to keep a constant eye on."
In addition to the increased funding request, the state also wants to beef up education efforts in schools and local communities so that more people become aware of the dangers of cyber attacks.
Toward that end, the state began working with several counties on the CySAFE program, or Cyber Security Assessment for Everyone, to make sure employees get the training necessary to prevent attacks.
"We get attacked repeatedly and we're constantly watching and fighting it, but it's a battle we'll never win," said Phil Bertolini, deputy county executive and chief information officer for Oakland County. "When we figure out a way to stop one, they change and figure out another way to attack us. You can't spend enough to stop everything."
Beyond spending money, the state also is creating the Michigan cyber civilian corporation, which will consist of 10 teams of five cyber professionals in all regions of the state. The volunteers will help prevent and respond to cases of cyber emergencies.
"We believe they're critical people to stop or deal with attacks once they happen," Behen said.
And the State Police is expanding its Computer Crimes Unit, adding six more troopers and two more offices in the state, so that every region is covered.
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