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Maryland Officials Outline Package to Tighten Cybersecurity

Maryland lawmakers highlighted a package of measures Wednesday to tighten cybersecurity in the state.

Maryland lawmakers highlighted a package of measures Wednesday to tighten cybersecurity in the state.

Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones noted that Baltimore County was one of about 50 school systems across the nation attacked with ransomware in 2020, costing the county millions of dollars. In December, Maryland’s health department was hit by a ransomware attack that impeded information about health metrics relating to COVID-19.

“This package will help give our state agencies and local governments every tool in the toolbox to secure our IT networks and ensure our response to a cyberattack is swift, unified and coordinated,” Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, said during a videoconference.

One of the measures would increase coordination between state and local governments in cybersecurity.

“Other states have moved toward centralization, and we join them in that move nationally, which makes it easier to address a threat as well as makes it, at least from what we’ve seen, less expensive to then recover from a threat,” said Del. Pat Young, a Baltimore County Democrat.

Another measure would provide funds to local governments for information technology upgrades. Lawmakers are planning to use federal money, as well as some of the state’s budget surplus.

A third bill addresses emergency response. It would create a Cyber Preparedness Unit to support local governments in assessing how vulnerable they are to cyberattacks. The bill also would create a Cybersecurity Fusion Center to serve as a central location for information about incidents.

Mark Ripper, director of Carroll County’s Department of Technology Services, said the fusion center will better enable the sharing of information so local governments can take steps to protect themselves from an attack that has happened elsewhere.

“It’s really great to know, if somebody else has been attacked, exactly what happened,” Ripper said.

Keith Young, an official in Montgomery County’s Enterprise IT Security Office, called the package of legislation an important first step. He said “a chain is only as strong as the weakest length.”

“Unless (the) state and counties work together to build a statewide strong chain of cybersecurity defenses, cyber attackers will find government entities who do not have the proper protections in place and use those weaknesses to attempt to gain access to connected entities like Montgomery County,” Young said.

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