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Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Baker-Polito administration recognized 34 municipalities and public school districts from across the state as Cyber Aware Communities during a virtual event today featuring local and state cybersecurity leaders and hosted by the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security as part of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
Those recognized were the top performing participants in this year’s round of the Municipal Cybersecurity Awareness Grant Program.
Cyberattacks on municipal government and education systems are on the rise nationwide as cyber threat actors are using common threat actions such as phishing, smishing, hacking, and ransomware attacks to gain access to an organization’s IT networks and sensitive data, according to the EOTSS. Recent high-profile ransomware attacks and hacks have disrupted operations in both the public and private sector.
Employee cybersecurity awareness training, identified by the National Governors Association as “the single most effective factor in preventing security breaches and data losses,” is a critical tool for organizations to prepare their workforce to best defend against potential cyber threats.
“Buy-in and awareness on cybersecurity from an organization’s leadership team is critical to its success,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “Congratulations to each of the municipalities and public schools that have earned recognition as a Cyber Aware Community for their leadership in better securing their organization from potential threats.”
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said the state’s cybersecurity and IT grant programs are vital resources “to enhance a local government and community cybersecurity posture.”
The Municipal Cybersecurity Awareness Grant Program is managed by EOTSS’s Office of Municipal and School Technology and is supported by capital funding secured in last year’s general governmental bond bill, intended to invest in the Commonwealth’s cybersecurity posture and IT infrastructure modernization initiatives.
In the first two years, 62,000 municipal and public school employees have enrolled in the program, gaining access to critical end-user training, evaluations and threat simulations. Participating organizations include large cities, small towns, and school districts from across the Commonwealth, according to the EOTSS. Results have shown that participants receiving the cybersecurity awareness training on average saw a 6-point improvement on the final assessment of the training course.
“Threats posed by cyber-attacks are so great today that cybersecurity can no longer be viewed as a problem for the IT department alone,” said Curt Wood, secretary of Technology Services and Security. “The municipalities and public schools being recognized today are stepping up to ensure that [employees are] properly trained to identify and avoid attempts by malicious actors to gain access to critical systems and data.”
Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. said the Municipal Cybersecurity Awareness Grant Program “has been an invaluable tool in helping to raise the awareness of our employees to the dangers of cyberattacks, and equipping them to identify and help prevent them.”
COVID-19 has amplified cybersecurity challenges for all organizations, according to the EOTSS. As cyber threat actors take advantage of an increasingly remote and hybrid workforce, the number of threats and scams has increased.
“The 34 communities being honored today are true leaders, and they should be applauded for their hard work, dedication and long-term commitment to building resilient and cyber-secure cities and towns,” said MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith. “Local leaders know that protecting our public IT infrastructure and sensitive data from sophisticated cyberattacks requires a powerful state-local partnership, and we are deeply grateful to the Baker-Polito administration and the Massachusetts Legislature for providing critical support, resources and assets through the Cybersecurity Awareness Grant Program, which is a model for the rest of the nation.”
Recognized as a Cyber Aware Community were the cities of Gloucester and Worcester, the towns of Acushnet, Blandford, Concord, Dennis, Dover, Dracut, Dudley, East Bridgewater, Edgartown, Foxborough, Medway, Nantucket, Norfolk, Orleans, Provincetown, Scituate, Sutton, Truro, Wareham and Wilmington, the school departments of Maynard, Natick, New Bedford, Rockland, Sandwich and Wellesley, the Barnstable Police Department, Bristol County Agricultural High School, Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District, Southwick Public Safety, the South Shore Regional Vocational Technical School District, and the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District.
The application period for the 2022 Municipal Cybersecurity Awareness Grant Program will open on Oct. 29.
For information on additional cybersecurity and IT resources available to municipalities and public schools, visit www.mass.gov/orgs/office-of-municipal-and-school-technology.