With state and local governments (SLGs) becoming more tempting targets for cyberattacks every day, Federal and SLG experts are increasingly urging the importance of communication between the public and private sector in order to achieve a unified and stronger American cybersecurity posture.

At an April 15 GovLoop webinar, experts urged SLGs to remain vigilant, and encouraged the Federal government to continue to ramp up its security communication efforts with SLG partners.

“We’re seeing more and more often in this space that local government is more and more of a target,” said Bill Zielinski, chief information officer (CIO) for the City of Dallas, Texas.

“For us at the local level, that means that we have to remain ever vigilant,” he said. “We need to make sure that we’re keeping our eyes on the intelligence that is being provided to us from the Federal government and ensuring that we are really following through and taking those actions.”

Steven McAndrews, deputy associate administrator for information management and CIO at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), said his agency is working hard to loop in SLG partners whenever possible.

“We try to reach out as much as absolutely possible, whenever possible, to local governments [and] states,” McAndrews said. “Industry partners were tremendously helpful in helping us shape a lot of these policies.”

Zielinski said that communication on security issues from the Federal government in the past two years “has been really great” not only for his city, but also for America as a whole. By communicating with SLG partners, he said the Federal government is only strengthening its own cyber posture.

“If you don’t have that same level of discipline down at the state and local level, you have a huge gap in your attack surface,” Zielinski said. “I think what you’ve seen over the last couple of years is an increased campaign on the part of DHS [Department of Homeland Security] and CISA [Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency] in the entire Federal structure, trying to help and assist at the local level to ensure that they that they have what they need, and perhaps even more importantly … the flow of information that is coming through.”

McAndrews agreed, stressing that “cyber is a team sport,” and that strong communication between the Federal government and SLGs is key “to make sure that we’re all on the same page.”

“We have all these tools, all of these processes and procedures, but at the end of the day communication is paramount,” McAndrews said. “Making sure that CISA, the Federal government, and everyone else is working with the locals and working with the states and businesses to make sure that critical infrastructure is secure.”

“And I know that that is a huge cultural shift, but I love the direction we’re going,” he said. “So, I look forward to continuing to advocate for that.”

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