In light of recent cyberattacks against Federal agencies, the Department of Defense (DoD) is increasing its requirements for private sector contractors to ensure they are adequately securing and protecting contractor and DoD data.

In response, the non-profit organizations CyberHawaii and the Cyber Readiness Institute (CRI) have launched Cyber Ready Hawaii, a free program that will make it easier for Hawaii’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to meet new DoD contract requirements.

The new training program is funded by the State of Hawaii Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) through a grant from the DoD’s Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation.

“This program will not only help Hawaii businesses and non-profits meet cybersecurity requirements to compete for Federal contracts, it will also enhance the level of protection for their overall organization,” said Jill Tokuda, co-director of CyberHawaii..

The Cyber Ready Hawaii program is a combined virtual and mentoring training program. CyberHawaii and CRI will establish two tiers of Cyber Leader Certification and certify SMEs as “Cyber Ready.” In a press release, CyberHawaii and CRI explained that a “train-the-trainer” program will be utilized where candidates are trained and certified as entry-level cybersecurity professionals to then develop and guide cyber leaders in each SME and verify that the SME has successfully completed the cyber readiness program.

During the program, certified cyber leaders will help Hawaii businesses and nonprofits through basic cybersecurity hygiene requirements, including the basic safeguarding measures required for compliance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 52.204-21.

“Cyber readiness focuses on prevention and being ready if an incident does occur. The role of Cyber Leaders is to create a culture of cyber readiness by focusing on human behavior,” said Craig Moss, program director of CRI. “Cyber Leaders will develop a deeper understanding of how people, processes, and technology work together in cybersecurity. It will be a valuable step in preparing companies to meet the DoD requirements.”

While the program is currently in pilot testing, CyberHawaii and the Cyber Readiness Institute anticipate scaling the number of participants in August, with the goal of having 250 companies complete the program by June 30, 2022.

“Protecting sensitive data and information is critical, and Hawaii businesses and non-profits both large and small are at risk for data breaches and cyberattacks. As we continue to see cyber threats increase across the nation, the timing of our partnership with CRI is critical for Hawaii,” said Tokuda. “Many of Hawaii’s [SMEs] are extremely busy with their day-to-day operations. Unfortunately, they don’t have the time, resources, or internal expertise to focus on cybersecurity until they experience a breach.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs