We are a technology-dependent society. Sensitive personal data such as financial accounts, Social Security numbers and medical information are secured in cyberspace. Unfortunately, this information that we trust to be protected, is targeted by high-tech criminals working to steal our private information, damage networks of data and prevent users from accessing material stored on secure systems.
CNN recently reported that 140 local governments, police stations and hospitals have been held hostage by ransomware attacks in the past 10 months. According to the FBI, ransomware is the fastest growing malware threat. These attacks target a computer or network and infect the system, preventing access to the data until the victim pays money to regain use of their files.
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This is a time we can refocus and bring attention to protecting our personal digital information, improving security awareness practices in the workplace and preserving our national security.
We all have a stake in safeguarding this sensitive information. I have seen the commitment of Arkansans to support cybersecurity efforts at all levels of government, in our homes and private businesses.
Leaders from across the state recently participated in the American Cyber Alliance’s 2nd annual Arkansas Cyber Summit. This event brought together cybersecurity leaders to provide an opportunity to emphasize better collaboration across the state, local and federal government and private sector and to ensure we are building a workforce that is cyber literate. It’s clear there is a commitment to creating a more secure Arkansas. I’m pleased to see the ongoing actions and education to learn the latest best practices, current threats and new technologies.
With the strides that Arkansas is making in its K-12 schools to better educate students on cyber hygiene and basic cybersecurity practices, we are raising our state’s technology aptitude, which will likely result in better cybersecurity.
The Little Rock Air Force Base is playing an important role in the development of cyber capabilities to help the U.S. Air Force after leaders, including myself, helped procure a cybersecurity mission to train more cyber warriors. In 2017 the Air National Guard Cyber Skills Validation Course graduated its inaugural class of students, and this year the unit doing this work was officially designated as the 223rd Cyberspace Operations Squadron.
The development of cyber programs in Arkansas extends beyond our military installations. The University of Central Arkansas also launched its cyber range to educate students to identify potential cyberattacks and stop them before they begin.
Arkansas is also working hard to create cross-functional teams to improve our collective ability to share cyber threat intelligence so that our critical infrastructure owners and businesses can be fortified from potential attacks. I have been pleased with the growing interest from the intelligence community in what we are doing in Arkansas.
As public-private partnerships develop and implement critical cyber protections, there is a role for each of us to play. As a consumer, I’m focusing – like all Americans should – on protecting my personal data because we all have an interest in keeping our electronic information safe.