New York cyber lead warns of what states face in critical infrastructure defense
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New York cyber lead warns of what states face in critical infrastructure defense

Dive Brief:

  • Critical infrastructure providers are under more frequent and sophisticated cyberthreats as more nation-state adversaries work with criminal hackers to target the U.S., according to Colin Ahern, chief cyber officer for New York State.
  • Governments must work collaboratively at all levels in order to combat these threats, with federal, state and local governments working with each other and in partnership with the private sector, which controls much of the critical infrastructure that needs protection, according to Ahern.
  • “The state obviously also operates critical infrastructure, but as you know most of the critical infrastructure in the state is privately owned, necessitating collaborative partnerships not only within the public sector, but across the private sector,” Ahern said.

Dive Insight:

Ahern delivered the keynote address at a gathering of top law enforcement and cybersecurity officials at the Protecting New York Summit last week at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan.

New York State has been at the forefront of combating cybercrime. The state faces considerable threats to both public and private sector organizations, due to its role as a global media and financial hub. It also serves as a major entry point for international trade and passenger travel. 

Just prior to the invasion of Ukraine, New York State unveiled the Joint Security Operations Center, which is designed to coordinate cyber monitoring and response with major critical infrastructure providers and local governments across the state. 

Ahern was named the state’s first chief cyber officer in June of 2022, and he serves as leader of the Brooklyn-based JSOC operation as part of his role. 

The speech comes at a time when local and state governments and local critical infrastructure providers face more sophisticated cyberattacks

Federal officials in September 2022 allocated about $1 billion through the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program, which will be spread out over four years to help state, municipalities and U.S. territories combat cyberthreats.  

Already this year, state and local governments have experienced major cyberattacks. The city of Dallas endured a massive ransomware attack linked to Royal ransomware in May that shut down municipal court hearings and took down the website for the local police department. Royal ransomware group threatened to leak data it claimed to have stolen from the city.

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