Michigan: Defender of Cyber Assets

From legislative initiatives to local businesses, all hands are on deck across the state. Internet-based technology is infused with almost every aspect of the modern economy: or…

From legislative initiatives to local businesses, all hands are on deck across the state.

Internet-based technology is infused with almost every aspect of the modern economy: ordering food and shopping online, or swiping a debit card as opposed to using cash. As these technological ties entrench themselves even further into our lives in new and innovative ways, the need to protect ourselves as a community online increases.

Cybersecurity threats are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, especially when it comes to prime targets like businesses or government offices. It doesn’t matter if the target is a far-reaching company such as Equifax or simply an entrepreneur who launched his or her first website; it’s a matter of when someone will attempt to exploit sensitive information, not if.

Politics — specifically, legislative mechanics — play a vital role in helping to safeguard the public. Through relevant regulations and lawmaking collaborations, Michigan sees the writing on the wall to gear up for long-term, statewide security measures.

Rallying the Troops Statewide

Likened to a volunteer fire department, the Michigan Cyber Civilian Corps (MiC3) — signed into law late last year — is a group of trained professionals that volunteer their expertise to enhance the state’s ability to rapidly resolve cyber incidents.

“I’m proud that Michigan is a national leader in addressing cybersecurity, and this bill helps continue our efforts by boosting the network of experts who are ready to respond and assist, should a cybersecurity threat occur,” Gov. Rick Snyder said last October in a press release surrounding MiC3’s codification into law.

MiC3 has existed in function for the past few years but has never deployed because of a fortunate lack of a governor-declared State of Emergency related to cyber assets. Membership is open to specialized professionals who are residents of the state with at least two years of related experience in information security. There are vetted background checks and other requirements as well.

“It’s important overall to be proactive, not reactive,” said Rajiv Das, chief security officer at the Department of Transportation, Management and Budget (DTMB). DTMB authorizes the appointment of MiC3 volunteers. “Organizations need to understand and maintain the importance of a rapid response. Things change so quickly when it comes to cyber concerns.”

There are around 70 MiC3 volunteers currently, but the outfit hopes to move beyond 100 in time. Volunteering comes with a slate of unique trainings and incentives including immunity from liability when on an assignment.

“It’s so important to make sure our volunteers are protected,” said Das. “These are the kinds of incentives needed to bring everyday citizens with these capabilities together; it just makes sense.”

Businesses Get Involved

While Michigan has kept cybersecurity top of mind on a state level, local businesses also recognize the political element in moving the state forward. Dewpoint, Lansing’s leading technology integrator and consulting firm, hosted U.S. Sen. Gary Peters last November for a panel discussion on cybersecurity.

“As we work to address these ever-evolving cybersecurity challenges, we must ensure that everyone — from government to health care providers to small businesses — have the tools to prevent attacks and mitigate the damage from breaches,” said Peters.

Panel members representing IT leaders in health care, finance and more sat with the senator at Dewpoint’s Lansing location to discuss the volume of cybersecurity assets and the harm that comes with security breaches. Right before the panel, Peters was also given a tour of Dewpoint’s Network Operating Center (NOC): a central hub for evaluating and preventing potential threats to client securities.

The meeting provided an opportunity for industry leaders to not only share some of their challenges with a legislator directly, but for Peters to ask questions and bring a greater understanding back to his peers. He was particularly keen on remembering to look beyond preventive measures and general standards to think about how communities can also hold hackers accountable.

“You can keep defending your house against a burglar, but we also punish the burglar … at some point, you have to be punished and folks need to know, if you engage in these activities, it’s severe,” said Peters.

In the face of an increasingly complicated world that relies on the digital component, dialogue helps all sides work together to alleviate concerns across critical, information-sensitive environments.

New Administration, Same Awareness

The message to galvanize around protecting Michigan’s cyber assets is as clear as day on a municipal level of governance — especially in Michigan’s capital city. Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, who was sworn in Jan. 1, 2018, keeps cybersecurity at the forefront no matter how miniscule the issue.

“Cybersecurity is always an issue, whether it’s someone trying to throw ransomware up and hold you captive or employees who happen to click on that wrong link and suddenly there’s malware,” said Schor when he was mayor-elect. “Sometimes, employees have phones or technology where they press the wrong thing, so you have to have … backups and redundancies and more technologies.”

While Schor is bringing fresh ideas as Lansing’s first new mayor in 12 years, the diligence of those already present has not been lost on him. Collin Boyce for example, Lansing’s first chief information officer, has carried over from the Bernero administration.

“[Boyce] is, from what I’ve seen, one of the leading experts. He’s been very progressive and proactive in ensuring our servers are safe and we are not going to face cyberthreats … we’ve got exceptional staff to ensure our safety,” Schor said.

With the backing of leaders within the city of Lansing and statewide, seasoned legislators and tech professionals are working hard to get ahead of hackers. Schor stresses that trust in each other is tantamount to success — a value we all must heed to truly protect one another.

“You can have the greatest vision with the greatest ideas and be the hardest worker, but if you don’t have a good team behind you working in tandem, then you will fail,” said Schor.

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