Cyber threats are a collective danger: States and industry must respond collectively
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You are probably reading this on an internet-connected device. If you drive a car, it likely depends on dozens of internal microchips just to get you out of the driveway. If you work in an office or at home, your duties are increasingly “moving to the cloud.” And when you use the microwave, it draws power from an electrical grid managed by a computerized control system. 

Digital technology provides our modern lives with many conveniences. But the interconnected systems they reply upon also make us vulnerable. Every day, criminal hackers—some supported by foreign adversaries—launch millions of attacks on our public and private computer networks, probing for weaknesses they can exploit for financial or strategic gain.

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States are on the front lines of our collective response to the cyber threat. Governors are responsible for protecting some of the most critical pieces of digital infrastructure, as well as troves of sensitive data. These can include vital records, voter information, industrial control systems that manage dams and power grids, transportation networks, public health information, building blueprints and emergency preparedness plans, to name just a few.

Successful cyberattacks have both a human and a financial toll. The average cost of a data breach is now $3.9 million, according to IBM. Last year, a ransomware attack in Colorado took 2,000 Department of Transportation computers offline and led to the first gubernatorially declared state of emergency in the country resulting from a cyber incident. With the growth of the Internet of Things, cyber intrusions have exponentially more potential to wreak havoc in the physical world.

No one state or governor can overcome the challenges of cybersecurity alone. All 55 U.S. states and territories are bound together as one nation, and we must stand together against the rising tide of cybercrime that robs our citizens and businesses of their money, assets and privacy. Exchanging information and sharing lessons learned is essential. We must work collectively to stay ahead of a fast-moving threat.

On May 14, the National Governors Association hosted the National Summit on State Cybersecurity, the only national conference focused exclusively on state and local cybersecurity. We joined teams from nearly every state and territory in Shreveport-Bossier, Louisiana to share information and best practices, strategize and form a united front against our cyber adversaries.

States have already started to take action.

In 2017, Arkansas was the first state in the country to construct a cyber range specifically designed for educational purposes. Building on this, the Arkansas Department of Education, in conjunction with industry leaders, this year developed range-based curriculum modules to be used in the teaching of important cybersecurity concepts.

The Louisiana Cybersecurity Commission, created by Gov. Edwards in 2017, has been working non-stop to bring together public- and private-sector leaders to communicate, plan and implement activities to build and sustain a comprehensive cybersecurity ecosystem. Louisiana two- and four-year institutions are enhancing cyber degree offerings to prepare more graduates for state and national cybersecurity needs.

A holistic response also requires active, collaborative partnerships between the private and public sectors. Businesses, for example, should look for ways to partner with public agencies or academic institutions to support research and employee training initiatives. Raytheon, for example, is the primary sponsor of the National Collegiate Cyberspace Defense Competition, which helps college students showcase their cybersecurity skills against ethical hackers. 

Governors also have a keen interest in working with cities and towns as digital technology becomes more integrated into local services. One particular need is to work closer with local leaders to help them understand the cyber challenges they face and help them meet national standards around protecting critical data and services.

As the president’s new National Cyber Strategy states: “America’s prosperity and security depend on how we respond to the opportunities and challenges in cyberspace.” The rise of internet-connected technology is helping bring new efficiencies to our everyday lives. But to keep our devices, systems, networks and infrastructure safe, we also need the best strategies, governance, and highly skilled workforce to defend them. And that’s where governors and private partners are leading.

John Bel Edwards is the governor of Louisiana. Asa Hutchinson is the governor of Arkansas. Thomas Kennedy is the Chairman and CEO of Raytheon Company, a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, civil government and cybersecurity solutions.