The foremost duty of every governor is to safeguard the public safety and welfare of its residents; that includes protecting citizens from cybersecurity threats. Cyber threats pose serious risks to the core interests of all states and territories. Recent cyber intrusions have stolen volumes of confidential data, exposed critical services to disruption and resulted in significant economic impacts to states.
States are attractive targets because they collect and store massive amounts of personal and financial data. They also own, control and regulate critical infrastructure. Yet all states struggle to defend agencies against cybersecurity threats. Some of the most sophisticated cyber hacking tools—once the sole purview of militaries and intelligence agencies—are now widely available to anyone with an Internet connection. States are on the front lines of cybersecurity, and adversaries will continue to target them.
Governors are focused on this threat. Most states and territories have awakened to these concerns, and governors across the nation are taking steps to enhance their resiliency. But cybersecurity policy is difficult. Solutions require vast coordination and deconfliction between state agencies, localities, tribal entities, federal partners, private companies and citizens, as well as the flexibility to rapidly
change with emerging technologies.
Moreover, a state’s cybersecurity interests extend far beyond defending public networks. Governors must prepare for significant consequences resulting from disruptions of critical infrastructure. They are responsible for identifying, pursuing and prosecuting cyber criminals. Businesses also depend on governors to be prepared for the consequences of cyberattacks, both virtual and physical. Yet, the underpinning to successful cybersecurity-policy is having a competent and plentiful workforce. Therefore, governors must lead the creation of school curricula that ensure individuals are getting the necessary skills to compete in an economy where cybersecurity is a core business concern.
In short, cybersecurity is a whole-of-state concern that requires high-level executive engagement.