Cybersecurity issues receive more and more attention as states come to a better understanding of just how much a target they are for hackers. The more data you have, the bigger of a target you are. But many states were slow to adopt robust security measures and many are still behind the curve.
During his recently-concluded term as chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe wanted to ensure states were doing everything they could to protect themselves and share best practices.
“This is the biggest threat to our government,” says Gov. McAuliffe. “They are obviously trying to get into our defense areas, nuclear areas, they are trying to get into our electrical grids across this country. I mean they are trying to wreak havoc on America.”
Behind Gov. McAuliffe’s leadership, the NGA stepped up to help governors and states Meet the Threat, providing cybersecurity frameworks and risk management tools, training and response planning.
Cyber issues have been front and center for McAuliffe. As governor of the state with 27 military installations, the CIA and the Pentagon. The governor wanted to focus on a policy issue that was bipartisan – and every governor in America is facing cybersecurity threats whether he or she is a Republican or a Democrat. As part of the effort, the NGA did an initial evaluation with each governor and a surprisingly high number had insufficient protections and processes in place.
“It woke folks up,” he says, pointing out that because states interact with one another so frequently, hackers can find ways to break in the back door of state that is strong in its cybersecurity efforts through a state that is less so. “We as the governors in the 50 states are only as strong as our weakest link. This is something that had not been on their radar but it needs to be. No matter where you are, cyber attackers are going at your system.”