Cyber Florida Helps Towns and Counties Prepare for the Growing Cyber Threat
With support from Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, and the Florida League of Cities, Cyber Florida’s efforts have already reached over 300 local public officials
February 26, 2020—Tampa, FL: Cyber Florida’s ongoing efforts to help the state’s local governments improve their cybersecurity featured events in Ocala and Tallahassee that included Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey, and Cyber Florida’s new executive director, the Honorable J. Michael “Mike” McConnell (VADM, USN, RET.). McConnell, the former director of national intelligence and National Security Agency, was recently named the executive director of Cyber Florida by Dr. Steven C. Currall, president of the University of South Florida, the host institution of Cyber Florida.
The Ocala event, which took place on February 11 and was co-sponsored by Marion County Clerk of the Court/Comptroller David R. Ellspermann, featured Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who noted that “Last year, several cities and at least one Florida school district were held hostage by cybercriminals. These attacks on our cities are expensive and divert the government’s focus away from serving its citizens, and these workshops will help local leaders across Florida implement procedures to prevent, respond to and recover from cyberattacks.”
The Tallahassee workshop on February 13, hosted by Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey in City Hall, was part of a statewide effort co-sponsored by the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida City and County Management Association, the Florida Local Government Information Systems Association, and the USF School of Public Affairs. Other workshops were held in Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, and Jacksonville, reaching a total of over 300 local government officials.
Keynoting the Tallahassee workshop, Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee outlined the comprehensive election security strategy developed by her office for the state.
“Fair and accurate elections are the cornerstone of any free society. The number one priority of the Florida Department of State and all 67 county Supervisors of Elections is to ensure Florida’s elections are safe and secure and voter information is protected,” said Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee. “The Department collaborated with federal, state, and local partners to implement an initiative that established a consistent baseline of security across the state. This collaboration represents an unprecedented cooperative partnership with counties to do even more to secure and protect the integrity of Florida’s elections. We now have statewide visibility on our elections infrastructure and are providing hands-on support to all 67 counties. No Florida county will ever again stand alone against cyber threats,” she said.
Secretary Lee was joined on the program by Executive Director McConnell; Pensacola City Administrator Keith Wilkins, who provided lessons learned from that city’s recent ransomware attack; Florida Chief Information Security Officer Thomas Vaughn, and a host of officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who described the panoply of cybersecurity resources available to local governments. The workshop also featured an intense, two-hour simulated cyberattack on a fictitious Florida city, facilitated by Dr. Ron Sanders, director of USF’s School of Public Affairs.
Cyber Florida Executive Director Mike McConnell observed that “Municipal and county governments are targets because cybercriminals know they have limited financial and human resources to devote to cybersecurity, and these workshops are intended to make Florida local government leaders aware of the threats they face as well as the vital role that each of their employees plays in protecting their systems from cyberattacks. In many instances, applying basic cyber hygiene is all that’s needed to reduce cybercriminals’ chances of success significantly.”
Cyber Florida plans to continue its efforts to support local government cybersecurity readiness across the state. If you are interested in hosting an event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.