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Politics and Government

Katko: Feds can help local government, private sector defend against cyberattacks

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Tom Magnarelli/ WRVO Public Media
Rep. John Katko, center, with Nitin Natarajan, the deputy director of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, left.

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), who is the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, said cyberattacks are some of the most serious threats facing the country. Katko held a recent roundtable with local government, utility, health care, education and business leaders, to discuss the steps they can take to improve their cybersecurity. One of the problems they face is finding enough talent to fill cybersecurity jobs.

Katko said five years ago, the preeminent national security threat was ISIS. But those days are gone and a far greater threat is directed towards cybersecurity. Recent cyberattacks were made on Colonial Pipeline, the beef industry and a software supplier, which affected hundreds of U.S. companies.

“This is a problem that is multiplying,” Katko said. “If you look at the last three major attacks, the ransomware attack went from $5 million to $11 million to $70 million. This is serious stuff and it’s not going to go away.”

Locally, Onondaga County libraries, Fayetteville-Manlius and Syracuse schools were hit with cyberattacks in 2019. The recent roundtable featured the deputy director of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which Katko said can help local governments and the private sector develop better cyber practices.

“The goal is to get to the point where we are not just talking about what happened with an attack, we’re talking about how our systems are hardened enough that we’re thwarting attacks,” Katko said.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said it’s not just about resources and buying the best security infrastructure; there is a talent pipeline deficiency to monitor the threat.

“This is becoming more and more, really all, that part of our IT departments do,” McMahon said.

He added that also presents an opportunity. Katko said the county’s new STEAM school, with a cybersecurity curriculum, is going to be really important. He estimated there could be a shortage of about a million workers for cybersecurity jobs, right now.