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State Legislators Identify Major Opportunities to Address Cybersecurity Gaps 

Press Release on survey results of a Governing Institute survey of elected appointed officials about cyber security.

With ever-changing cyber threats, a new Governing Institute survey identified key areas for improvement with state cybersecurity awareness and preparedness.

SACRAMENTO, California – March 7, 2016 Despite a dramatic rise in data breaches, 80 percent of elected and appointed officials and their staff say they do not know if their state has a cyber-emergency incident plan in place, according to a new survey conducted by the Governing Institute and supported by AT&T and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). 

The survey included responses from a representative sample of state elected and appointed officials and legislative staff members across the country -- and sought to better understand their priorities and knowledge as it relates to cybersecurity at the state level. 

“The purpose of the survey was to examine current baseline cybersecurity knowledge of state elected and appointed officials in order to identify educational needs regarding this topic,” said Todd Sander, vice president of research for the Governing Institute. “We found that, although legislators know the risks are high, many are not as involved as they could be and significant cybersecurity gaps remain.”

Despite the fact that fully 8 in 10 respondents (83 percent) agree that cybersecurity is a priority for them, and nearly three quarters (72 percent) believe their state’s current level of cyber risk is moderate to high, legislators are not as immersed in state cybersecurity efforts as they could and would like to be, according to the survey. Even as cybersecurity has become an increased priority for states, only 18 percent of surveyed legislators currently sit on a committee with cybersecurity as part of its official mandate. 

Low levels of legislative involvement may be exacerbated by a lack of state funding, qualified personnel, and legislators’ own knowledge about cybersecurity, the survey found. Forty-three percent of respondents reported insufficient cybersecurity funding, half of respondents (50 percent) said their state has an inadequate number of cybersecurity personnel, and almost the same proportion (43 percent) said there is a general lack of understanding about cybersecurity risks and incidents in their state.

“This study shows that legislators are aware of the cybersecurity risks in their state networks and want to know and do more,” said Chris Boyer, assistant vice president, Global Public Policy, AT&T. “We’re here to help, including our participation in efforts like this that shine a light on how industry and public-sector entities can work together to address the growing cybersecurity threat.”

“More highly engaged state legislative involvement in cybersecurity is critical,” said Michael Kaiser, NCSA’s executive director. “It’s clear from the study that state legislators want and need a more substantive education in core cybersecurity topics that impact state networks as well as citizens.”

The good news is the vast majority (87 percent) of survey respondents indicated they are interested in furthering their education around cybersecurity. The top five areas legislators indicated they’d like to learn more about were: the biggest cybersecurity threats facing state government; the best cybersecurity methods for helping to protect state networks; top causes of data breaches; how to respond to a data breach; and how to help protect mobile devices. 

Click here to review the full infographic of the survey data.

The Governing Institute will present additional data and the full results from the survey during a webinar on March 10 at 10:00 am PT/1:00 pm ET. The webinar will be followed by the release of a policy guide on the same topic later this spring. 

About the Governing Institute:
The Governing Institute is an initiative of Governing and e.Republic focused on improving state and local government performance and strengthening public-sector innovation, leadership and citizen engagement. Read more about the Institute here.  

About AT&T:
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) helps millions around the globe connect with leading entertainment, mobile, high speed Internet and voice services. We’re the world’s largest provider of pay TV. We have TV customers in the U.S. and 11 Latin American countries. We offer the best global coverage of any U.S. wireless provider*.  And we help businesses worldwide serve their customers better with our mobility and highly secure cloud solutions.

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About NCSA:
NCSA's mission is to educate and therefore empower a digital society to use the Internet safely and securely at home, work, and school, protecting the technology individuals use, the networks they connect to, and our shared digital assets. Read more here.

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