Madison’s new cyber security position will have to play catch up to ensure the city’s digital infrastructure is protected.
Earlier this month, Mayor Paul Soglin added $100,000 to the 2016 operating budget for the position, which will be responsible for implementing proactive security measures and disrupting attacks as they occur.
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Ald. Mark Clear, District 19, said the need for better cyber security has been growing for some time, especially as the number of threats grows. He said it’s important to have someone on staff who can handle these threats.
“It’s a mission critical aspect of the business,” Clear said. “This is absolutely a good investment.”
Last year the city’s website was disabled following a “denial of service attack,” but Clear said there are a host of other threats the city must defend against. He said the city relies on internet access for a wide range of services, from communication to inter-agency cooperation.
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Clear said the attack earlier in the year required many staff members to correct and brought the cyber security issue to the city’s attention.
UW’s Chief Information Security Officer Robert Turner, who has worked in cyber security for 30 years, said the city needs cyber security positions to ensure the integrity of its critical services.
Turner said there has been a need for cyber security since the early 2000s, but many government and business entities have been slow to adapt. If companies desire uninterrupted access to digital services, then they must invest in security personnel, he said.
Clear said they will have their hands full working to proactively and reactively secure the city’s systems. Cyber security is becoming increasingly specialized and the city can no longer rely on normal IT personnel, he said.
“I think this position is going to be in the trenches … reacting to threats in progress and making recommendations to increase security,” Clear said.
Turner said in a perfect world, city staff would be continually trained to recognize and avoid threats, including continued exposure to mock phishing attempts.
To thwart an attack in progress, Turner said a security expert must be aware of all the resources at their disposal and the sequence of events attacks follow, known as “The Cyber Kill Chain.”
“It’s understanding how they get in, what they leave behind to explode later and what the triggers are to set things off,” he said.
Turner said the multitude of security attacks suffered by the federal government and corporations this year is evidence the U.S. is unprepared and of the increased difficulty of repelling attacks.
He said attacks like the one on the Office of Personnel Management are examples of failures to enact fundamental security measures.
Turner said he is confident many state and local agencies are coming to realize the urgent need for security. The biggest challenge is actually finding security staff and finding ways to pay for them, he said.
More than ever, the city has a responsibility to ensure cyber security to its constituents, Turner said.
“Just like the University of Wisconsin has a responsibility to protect important research and student data … the city has a responsibility,” Turner said.