Dayton Proposes $125M Worth of Cybersecurity Reforms

January 31, 2017 10:37 PM

You might be surprised to hear just how often hackers try to break into Minnesota's computer systems. According to state officials, it's three million times per day, and they say those hackers come from more than 150 countries.

To combat the problem, Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed $125 million worth of cybersecurity reforms. $74 million would go to cybersecurity defenses, while $51 million would go to upgrading the state's information technology infrastructure.


At a press briefing Tuesday, state Chief Information Officer Thomas Baden called it "a public safety issue."

Officials noted that much of the state's IT infrastructure is as old as the first-ever Macintosh computer, released in 1984. They also pointed out that those same systems play a part in securing the private data of more than 5 million Minnesotans.

"Nearly every critical government service that we provide to Minnesotans is provided through our IT systems," said Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans.

"A couple of those systems predate the internet. Several of those systems predate the mouse," said Baden.

Some of them have already been compromised.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services was hacked in 2015, according to DHS Chief Business Technology Officer Scott Peterson.

He said DHS employees unknowingly fell victim to what's called a ransomware attack, which is when malware blocks access to a computer until ransom money is paid.

"These things can, you know, end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars," Peterson said Tuesday.

In the end, Peterson said DHS got lucky. They detected the threat quickly, did not end up paying the ransom, and Peterson said no personal information was compromised.

"I think it just illustrates the fact that the ability is there and that it can happen to us at any time," Peterson explained, adding, "right now it feels like doing nothing isn't an option."

House Speaker Kurt Daudt will reveal his own "citizen-focused technology initiative" at a press briefing Wednesday.

According to a news release, the initiative is "aimed at modernizing state government, and making it more responsive to those it serves."


Josh Rosenthal

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