Stephanie Helm, director of the MassCyberCenter, updates the Local Government Advisory Commission on Nov. 12 about the state’s efforts to fight cybercrime and educate local communities on the issue.

On Oct. 31, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Technology Services and Security Secretary Curt Wood joined legislative, municipal and public school officials to announce $250,000 in grants awarded to 94 municipalities and public school districts across the Commonwealth to provide cybersecurity awareness training for more than 42,000 employees.

Employees in participating communities will receive interactive online training in topics ranging from email security to USB device safety. Employees will also receive training to help them detect “phishing” emails, which present a growing threat in local government. With phishing, an attacker masquerades as a trusted entity to influence the employee to take an action that could be harmful to the organization.

Polito addressed the group of award recipients at Worcester City Hall to mark the end of October as Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

“Cybersecurity is a critical issue for Massachusetts communities and schools who face cybersecurity threats but sometimes lack the resources to prepare for and combat them,” Polito said. “These first-ever cybersecurity grant funds are a crucial tool to complement the over $9 million in funding for municipal IT infrastructure projects through the Community Compact program in providing Massachusetts communities and schools the resources and tools they need to combat cyber threats.”

Funding for the grants was included in the fiscal 2019 operating budget, supplemented with matching funds from the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security.

“Failure to proactively defend against cybersecurity threats in today’s digital world puts both the city and its residents at risk,” said Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus. “This is why training city staff to follow best practices and to be vigilant in the prevention of online attacks is so critical.”

At the Nov. 12 meeting of the Local Government Advisory Commission, MassCyberCenter Director Stephanie Helm updated local officials about state activities to address cyber threats and highlighted the Cybersecurity Toolkit for Municipalities on the center’s website (masscybercenter.org/municipal-toolkit). The state launched a public education campaign in October to increase awareness about cyber risks and held a free Municipal Cybersecurity Summit on Oct. 16 at Nichols College.

Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation in 2017 to establish the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security as a cabinet-level organization in the Executive Branch. In 2018, the office began deployment of annual cybersecurity awareness training for Executive Branch employees to better detect and mitigate cyber threats at the state level. The training will be enhanced year-over-year to account for evolving trends in cyber threats.

In April 2019, Gov. Baker filed a $1.1 billion bond bill that includes $600 million in information technology infrastructure funding. Of the funds, $140 million is dedicated to further enhance the cybersecurity of the Commonwealth’s digital assets, including a new Security Operations Center.

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