ALISHA GREEN, Associated Press

LANSING (AP) — Michigan is aiming to invest in cyber security and position itself as a national leader in the field as attacks on governments increase.

The state receives more than 730,000 attempted cyberattacks daily, and that number is rising as hackers and thieves try to steal valuable information from or shut down Michigan’s networks. Those attacks include spam and phishing emails.

In an effort to prevent such cyberattacks from being successful, Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed an additional $7 million for cyber security for the next fiscal year, which begins in October.

The increase would go toward boosting protection of the state’s computer systems, networks and data. The state now spends about $22 million a year, or 3 percent of the total information technology budget, on cyber security. Michigan’s Legislature would have to approve the $7 million as part of a package of pending budget bills.

David Behen, director of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget and the state’s chief information officer, explained the threats and how the additional money would help protect the state during a recent presentation to the House Communications and Technology Committee.

Behen cited recent breaches of companies such as Target and Anthem as examples of what attackers might try and what kind of information they seek.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, discovered in February that hackers broke into a database storing information for more than 80 million people. The health insurance provider says hackers gained access to names, birthdates, email addresses, Social Security numbers and other information of people who are covered or previously had coverage.

It’s clear that governments are increasingly being targeted for similar information.

In March 2014, Detroit computer systems were breached. Affected files contained identifying information of about 1,700 city employees. That breach happened after a city employee apparently clicked on a malicious software link in an email that released a code freezing access to numerous files.

The attacks on Michigan’s systems are up from 540,000 daily attacks last year, and that number is going to increase, Behen said.

While most of the attacks on the state’s systems are stopped, “some of them get through,” he said.

A lot of it is up to the user to recognize when something doesn’t look right and they shouldn’t click on it, he said. That’s why part of the state’s focus is on cyber awareness training for state employees, which began in 2012.

“We are only as strong as our weakest link,” Behen said.

Michigan’s overall approach to cyber security has been a priority for Snyder since he took office in 2011. It’s brought recognition from various groups. The efforts were recognized by the National Association of State CIOs as the best in the nation in 2013.

Snyder is co-chair of the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee of the National Governors Association. He started that group’s Resource Center for State Cyber Security with Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in 2012.

The federal government appears to have taken note of Michigan’s efforts, too. Michigan was recently selected as host for one of the first three cyber protection teams established by the National Guard.

As a host, Michigan will have a team responsible for cyber defense, including assessing vulnerabilities and inspecting for readiness. Michigan partnered with Ohio and Indiana on an application.

Brig. Gen. Michael Stone with the Michigan National Guard said hosting a team will allow Michigan to advance its information technology talent development. Members of the team will receive federal training, serve part-time, and be able to plug their technology skills into the state’s workforce.

Snyder said in a statement that being selected “enhances Michigan’s global marketability for training and research.”

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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