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Maryland is launching these 5 cyber initiatives to better secure state data

Maryland is adding chief data officer and chief privacy officer roles in state government. Those were among the announcements from Gov. Larry Hogan at Thursday's Annapolis Cybersecurity Summit.

Deputy National Security Adviser Anne Neuberger and Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, at the Annapolis Cybersecurity Summit, 7/29/21. (Photo via State of Maryland)

With big breaches happening frequently, we’re getting closer and closer to the inevitable cyberpunk future, where defending against cyberattacks is just as important as protecting our meat suits.

That future has long looked a little closer in Maryland, where cyber pros working in three-letter federal government agencies develop cyber tools to defend against attacks by nation-states that are often a generation ahead of what’s used in the private sector. This concentration of talent was on view Thursday, as Maryland Governor Larry Hogan convened a cybersecurity summit in Annapolis to discuss threats, and how best to join forces to confront them.

The event featured federal leaders from the White House, Congress, the National Security Agency (NSA), and the FBI. Hogan’s fellow governors from Arkansas and Louisiana also joined, as well as local higher ed leaders from UMBC. And the commercial sector was also represented with leaders from corporations with a big Maryland presence like Northrop Grumman and Exelon, as well as Maryland tech companies like IronNet Cybersecurity, Dragos, Gula Tech Adventures and TCecure.

“Public officials have no higher responsibility than keeping the American people safe, and there is no greater threat to their safety than the cyber vulnerabilities of the systems that support our daily lives,” said Hogan. “Now, the time has come for leaders at all levels of government, along with stakeholders in the private sector and academia, to take immediate and decisive actions.”

At an event that brought those stakholders together, Hogan announced five new initatives that are designed to strengthen the state government’s cybersecurity posture, and keep the collaboration going. Here’s a look at the new intiatives:

NSA partnership

The NSA, which is based at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County, will be sending an expert analyst on cybersecurity to help guide development of new data security measures being developed by the State of Maryland. This professional’s expertise will also be available to key university and private sector organizations, which one could only assume would include John Hopkins and the University System of Maryland.

A new institute at UMBC

Hogan and UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski signed an agreement to create the Maryland Institute for Innovative Computing (MIIC). It’s designed to address technology challenges in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and data science. UMBC and the state are collaborating to create rapid response teams to assist with cyber attacks like data breaches and ransomware attacks. The institute will also house a strategic technology investment fund to assist state agencies with their IT and data challenges, as well as grow the tech workforce.

Per the executive order, the first phase of the plan also calls for new workforce development intiatives by extending the UMBC-administered Maryland Technology Internship Program that provides funding for internships at tech companies, as well as upskilling efforts among the state’s current workforce.

Creation of the State Chief Privacy Officer

Hogan issued an executive order that created a state chief privacy officer who will be in charge of implementing a statewide data privacy framework to protect citizens’ personal information. It also requires that state government agencies appoint an agency privacy official to help the chief privacy officer wrangle and secure data, systems, and applications that hold personally identifiable information. It builds on past C-level roles that were created in recent years. The state already has a CISO, via Hogan’s 2019 executive order.

Creation of the State Chief Data Officer

Similar to Baltimore City’s own recently-created chief data officer, the state now has a top role to prioritize data governance through this executive order. The person who holds this new position will be responsible for supervising data use and management, as well as facilitating interagency data sharing, while also producing a strategic state data plan. Like the creation of the privacy officer, the executive order tasks state agencies with appointing an agency data officer to assist the chief data officer.

MD THINK grows in scope

Through another executive order, the Maryland Total Human-services Integrated Network (MD THINK) now has an associated committee that governs the way state agencies share and utilize data. MD THINK is a cloud-based repository that allows data sharing across multiple agencies. The state invested $200 million to create it. Its data will now be used to explore how the state interacts with families, and the executive order also aligns the Medicaid Modernization Transformation program with MD THINK, which will help to further modernize the state’s health and human services, the Hogan administration said.

Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.
Companies: State of Maryland
People: State of Maryland / Larry Hogan

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