The Massachusetts State House in Boston.

Nov 11 2019

Massachusetts Cybersecurity Program Aims to Help Cities

The initiative will provide resources to support workshops for municipalities to bolster cybersecurity.

Cyberattacks don’t just target large cities and state government. They also hit small towns that often have even fewer resources to defend themselves. 

With that in mind, last month Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced a new program to help the commonwealth’s 351 municipalities develop plans to enhance their cybersecurity resiliency.

The initiative, backed by $300,000 in funding, will be managed by the MassCyberCenter, a public entity that seeks to coordinate the state’s cybersecurity ecosystem.

The program will “support a series of statewide workshops that will provide municipalities with the tools to develop or review their cyber incident response plans and facilitate collaboration with neighboring communities,” according to a press release

Baker announced the program before a group of 200 executives from the private, public, and R&D sectors at the State House during the capstone event for the third Massachusetts Cybersecurity Forum. “The more capable the public realm becomes, the greater the challenges and the greater the risks associated with trust,” Baker said, according to the Boston Herald. “We need to do things to help.”

MORE FROM STATETECH: Find out why localities need to prepare for ransomware.

Massachusetts to Give Towns Cybersecurity Resources

The first workshop is expected to be held in 2020 and will help municipalities figure out what needs to be included in their incident response plan, Stephanie Helm, the director of MassCyberCenter, told StateScoop. That will likely include risk assessment, identifying key stakeholders, defining security incident types, preparing a variety of public statements and creating an incident event log. 

The second workshop will take place a few months later and will serve as a check-in to see “how they’re doing” on aspects of cybersecurity, such as inventory management and software patch schedules, according to StateScoop.

“It’s impossible to go to 351 towns one-by-one,” Helm told StateScoop, “and the benefit of a workshop is that you get to meet your neighbor or neighboring town. Some of these cities have quite a few resources and would be willing to lend a hand to a smaller nearby town, but they don’t know each other.” 

The workshops will be hosted in five regions in the state, divided by the state’s five Department of Homeland Security planning regions, according to StateScoop.

By using DHS’s framework, Helm hopes officials from cities and towns will be able to take advantage of unused federal cybersecurity funding that they may not be aware of or know how to best use. 

“These workshops will not only result in helping the municipalities in their planning process, but there will be other ways of getting them information and education,” Helm said.

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