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Cybersecurity Task Force releases action plan to improve

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri’s Cybersecurity Task Force released its recommendations for both private and public entities to achieve greater protection against online threats.

Those recommendations include the creation of a designated cybersecurity institute, modifying K-12 curriculum to include cybersecurity related studies, and providing multiple avenues to assist private entities to protect themselves from cybersecurity threats.

Irl Scissors, a representative of the Midwest Cyber Security Alliance, said he fully endorsed the ideas promoted within the action plan, the full text of which can be read here.

“The recommendations put forward are absolutely important, they’re necessary and they come from a reputable source,” he said.

Gov. Jay Nixon formed the task force in April and later in the year, he held the first annual State of Missouri Cybersecurity Summit in Jefferson City. The governor said in a statement accompanying the report that protecting the private information of the state’s citizens was “an investment worth making.”

“Going forward, it is important that the state continue its investments in education and workforce development to ensure there are qualified men and women trained in this fast-growing field,” Nixon said. “The latest programs and hardware can be purchased immediately when needed, but maintaining a skilled workforce requires a long-term vision and commitment across all levels of government.”

Missouri is already well-regarded as one of the top states in the nation when it comes to cybersecurity. The Office of Administration’s Information Technology Services Division received the “Overall Excellence in Cyber Security Award” in 2015 at the FireEye Cyber Defense Summit, and the next year, it was recognized by the Center for Digital Government as one of only five states to receive an “A” rating in the field of cybersecurity alongside Michigan, Ohio, Utah and Virginia.

Last year, the General Assembly also attempted to shore up the cybersecurity of the state’s utilities through the Grid Modernization Act, but the bill failed in the Senate on a filibuster. The legislation has already been pre-filed again for the 2017 legislative session.

Scissors said Missouri ranks so highly because OA has consolidated its information technology infrastructure instead of each department controlling its own IT issues, and it has budgeted well to that end.

“Diversifying your systems opens too many doors to allow for threats,” Scissors said. “When you consolidate, yes you’re more of a target, but you can also build a stronger wall.”

He also credited the proactive efforts of State Auditor Nicole Galloway at the local level to ensure municipal governments and schools districts were also doing all they could to shore up their online systems.