Bold State Cyber Plays Require Bold Action from the Private Sector, Too

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State CISOs face unique challenges in a highly competitive cybersecurity market. Here are three actions the private sector can take to help.

At the NASCIO annual conference, held Oct. 21-24 in San Diego, the organization presented the 2018 Deloitte-NASCIO Cybersecurity Study. This was the fifth edition of the study, and all 50 state Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) contributed to the data used in the study. The report provided important insights and a compelling call to action.

In each of the annual reports, the responding CISOs identify the top barriers their states face in addressing cybersecurity challenges. In all five editions, the top three responses from CISOs have been the same:

  1. Lack of sufficient funding/lack of sufficient cybersecurity budget
  2. Inadequate availability of security professionals
  3. Increasing sophistication of threats

In 2018, the order of issues (2) and (3) flip-flopped – CISOs are now more concerned about the availability of security professionals than the sophistication of cyber threats – which is a very telling indicator about the health of state cyber. As threats become more sophisticated, the private sector spends more to address them. Without sufficient funding, CISOs are crowded out of the talent pool, resulting in staff shortages that greatly increase the risk of a breach.

There are three actions the private sector can take:

  • Budget/funding. The boldest move lies in funding, or the rest is irrelevant. Private industry should work together to advocate for additional cybersecurity funding in all 50 states. This can take the form of a united lobbying effort to support CISOs in their efforts to obtain necessary budgetary support for their bold plays.
  • Staffing and talent development. The private sector can also host mentorship and internship programs to help train the state cybersecurity workforce and support STEM education in secondary schools. These are relatively small investments that can pay big dividends. Corporate citizenship programs that promote and support STEM education and cybersecurity as a profession can benefit all parties involved, especially those in underserved areas.
  • Threat sophistication. As regulations allow, private sector firms should consider treating support for local government as a corporate public service, and offering tools and consulting services by “adopting” a local jurisdiction. This would provide a platform for the tools and services that could benefit all levels of government by protecting the most vulnerable component of the public sector.

By taking these steps, the private sector can empower states to better protect themselves from inbound attacks and safeguard critical assets.

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