ST PAUL, Minnesota — Leaders at all levels across the state are working to help protect Minnesotans against cyberattacks. Just last month, the state launched a “whole-of-state” cybersecurity plan to strengthen local government cyber defense.
Tuesday morning, Metro State University hosted a cybersecurity roundtable to address cybersecurity threats.
“The impact of how a cyber disruption can change people’s lives is immediate,” said Tarek Tomes, commissioner of Minnesota IT Services.
“Last year we’ve seen escalating cyber attacks on our economy, our health care systems, our energy infrastructure, national security assets and even our democracy itself,” said U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), who referred to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon added, “Before 2016 when we talk about election security, we were talking about things like bomb threats or floods in a polling place. After 2016, it really is focused on cybersecurity.”
Since then, there have been multiple data breaches — from the University of Minnesota to the Department of Education — that have made headlines.
“Everything has led to this point where too much is reliant on too few. So we have too much security risk and it’s reliant on too few,” said Stefanie Horvath, chief information security officer for the city of St. Paul.
According to CyberSeek, in Minnesota there are more than 6,500 job openings in cybersecurity.
During the forum, a main topic was getting students starting at the K-12 level interested in cybersecurity jobs.
“(In) 2014, when we started this journey, there was nothing at Metro State when it comes to cybersecurity. Now I would say, in a very humble manner, that Metro State is the premiere institution when it comes to cybersecurity in the state of Minnesota and tons of initiatives are happening at the national level, state level and so on,” said Faisal Kaleem, professor of computer science and cybersecurity and the director of cybersecurity programs at Metro State University.
RELATED: Metro State University launches new cybersecurity clinic to protect local businesses and non-profits from hackers
Among their efforts, Metro State is opening a Cybersecurity Clinic in early 2024. Metro State is one of four universities nationwide awarded NSA funding ($1.45M) for a cybersecurity clinic. It will help Minnesota organizations, including nonprofits and small businesses, respond to cyber attacks.
“We are going to recruit the students and we are going to train them. These students are going to go out and help these different clientele… Win-win for everyone,” Kaleem said.
Ahead of next year’s launch, Metro State is holding focus groups with small businesses (Nov. 15) and nonprofits (Nov. 29). You can email email@example.com to participate.
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