With growing threats and shrinking budgets, ITD wants to quadruple cybersecurity team protecting ND

Published: Sep. 18, 2018 at 6:51 PM CDT
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North Dakota is always seen as a small state, but every day, more than 250,000 people access the state's computer network.

Chief Information Officer Shawn Riley says that's about the size of a top-30 company.

Defending that network are 11 cyber security experts.

What's the state seen in the past six months?

- 34 million vulnerability attacks directed at software.

- 3.3 million denial of service attacks- looking to disrupt access to websites or things like power grids and water supplies.

- 88 million spam or phishing emails.

- All of these were defended, but the threat is growing while the resources aren't.

Facing an $18 million budget cut, ITD will need to get creative.

An internal review shows on a scale of 0 to 5, North Dakota's security ranks a very average 1.2.

"1.2 out of 5 is not where we want to be but it's not like we're undefended. We're very, very defended but do we need to be vastly better at our process? Absolutely,” said Riley.

"It's a real dilemma and the cyber security issue is for real,” said Sen. Larry Robinson, D-Valley City.

Chief IT Officer Shawn Riley says bolstering defenses means a substantial investment- about $20 million. But they're facing an $18 million cut to meet the governor's budget recommendations.

"If we absorb an 18 million dollar cut, can we do our job? We can absolutely do our job. Do we have to prioritize differently, we certainly do. Do we have to take on projects differently? We certainly do,” said Riley.

ITD is already using public-private partnerships to help fill necessary jobs. In July, the state announced a partnership between Palo Alto Networks in California and higher education in the state to expand cyber education from kindergarten to PhD. Robinson says the legislature can't run from this issue.

"If we're going to step to the plate and address the cybersecurity issue, it's going to come with a price tag,” said Robinson.

The size of the price tag is for the legislature to decide. Riley said ITD will push for additional legislation to help the K-20 program and increase defense resources.