- Associated Press - Friday, April 7, 2017

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada lawmakers on Friday took up Gov. Brian Sandoval’s request to spend $3.5 million over the next two years to build up the state’s cybersecurity infrastructure and management.

His proposed Office of Cyber Defense Coordination would house the state’s first permanent cybersecurity response team. It would organize data systems across all state agencies, consult private businesses on best practices and partner with education officials to develop a technologically savvy workforce.

Existing cybersecurity protocols are designed to protect the sensitive information of Nevada residents and anyone who does business in the state. The security of financial and personal data relies only in part on the machines and software that store that information.

State employees are largely responsible for protecting the system from within - often by simply recognizing and not clicking on emails aimed at hacking, said Daniel Stewart, attorney to Sandoval’s office, at the plan’s first legislative hearing.

“It’s not really about just upgrading and having better software, a huge component of it is HR,” Stewart said.

Brigadier General Bill Burks, who advises the governor on a national defense council, said frequent collaboration and human oversight are also crucial to mitigating and responding to attacks.

“The human element is the weak link in the chain,” Burks said. “We know that hardware and software is not going to solve the problem; you have to take care of that human element.”

Sandoval has proposed hiring an administrator and at least three other people to staff the state’s new cyber team. Their salaries and benefits and other expenses to establish their office would cost about $900,000 over the next two years.

The Republican governor wants to spend another $2.6 million to upgrade various pieces of the state mainframe, hire two additional information technology professionals and generally expand existing security measures.

On top of the $3.5 million request, Sandoval has suggested the state loan the Department of Administration about $800,000 to update agencies’ computer hardware and software, which the department would begin to pay back in 2019.

Sandoval’s drive for additional funding and a long-term government structure to protect Nevada data comes as nearly every state in the nation considers improving their cybersecurity protocols. As vice chairman of the National Governor’s Association, and incoming chairman in June, he pressed other state executives to address the issue.

Sandoval said during his biennial address in January that cyberspace is as much a battlefield as land, sea, flight and outer space.

“I’d say just about every system that’s out there is under attack,” Burks said Friday. “It’s just whether you have the proper protocols in place, the right software that’s been updated to thwart a lot of these attacks.”

No one spoke against the plan, being carried in Assembly Bill 471, at the hearing.

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