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Kansas must prioritize cybersecurity to protect taxpayers

In an effort to protect the state from cyberattacks, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has created the Governor’s Cybersecurity Task Force.

“The task force will look at the state’s network and computers, assess the vulnerabilities we have and gather various options on combating cybercrime,” State Rep. Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater,told The Center Square. “A report will be given to the legislature before session begins in January.”

Hoffman said the legislature has been monitoring cybersecurity in the different agencies now for several years through the Legislative Post Audit division, which audits between six and nine agencies every year and reports the findings to the Joint Committee on Information Technology.

“The legislature has audited numerous agencies over the years on security and we are aware of different security events that have happened to Kansas municipalities, counties and of course across the country,” State Sen. Jeff Pittman, D-Leavenworth, told The Center Square. “However, the legislature hasn’t necessarily prioritized security as a focus until major things happened. This task force is an opportunity to look at strategies to holistically and apolitically recommend cybersecurity protocols, processes and systems across the state to help protect citizens’ valuable data.”

One area where citizens’ data was breached was through the state’s unemployment insurance system. Pittman said the state saw unprecedented levels of fraud attempts during the last year in that area, many times stemming from cybersecurity holes. Part of that committee’s task is to assess the level of estimated fraud over the course of the pandemic.

The task force is comprised of 15 members, according to State Scoop, including the state’s chief technology officer, top state officials and local government representatives. Their initial report will be given to the governor within 90 days, while a comprehensive report and proposals are due by Dec. 5.

“We can see that Kansas is vulnerable as are most states in the U.S.,” Pittman said. “We have seen some Kansas state agencies better positioned when audited than others, but security roles are often shared IT roles, where security is an afterthought. It’s time to make it a priority. We are in an age where vulnerabilities are being exploited and costing taxpayers public and private dollars.”

Hoffman echoes the sentiments.

“The state holds a lot of sensitive personal information and safeguarding that information should be a priority,” Hoffman said.

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