A Q&A with Sen. Bruce Thompson on cybersecurity

 

With the added attention given to the Presidential election and the possibility of foreign interference in that process, it seemed appropriate to have a discussion with Data Security and Privacy Study Committee Chairman, Senator Bruce Thompson. Thompson was tasked with assessing the vulnerability of certain systems and formulating plans to counter possible threats and data breaches.

Q: Senator, I understand you chaired the Data Security and Privacy Study Committee this past summer and seem to be passionate about the work that was done. In your opinion, why is it necessary to focus so much attention on data privacy and cyber security?

A: As you know, I have a background in Software and Data Privacy, and I am deeply concerned that the more society becomes technologically advanced and interconnected, the more vulnerable we also become. Hardly a day passes without another breach or cyber hack on an individual or entity, and the talent to combat this crisis is critically low.

As chairman of this committee, I worked with an incredibly talented team that invested significant time formulating an effective plan to meet the demands of our state. As a result of our travels and consultation with the likes of Microsoft (Cybercrime Lab), Michigan (Merit Cyber Range), and Augusta University, we prioritized 5 recommendations beginning with required complete awareness training for all executive branch state employees and contractors. As a part of this training, the state would either use an existing cyber range or build one to provide the practical training necessary. With a desire to streamline and formalize communication and efficiencies in regards to data within the state government, we recommended that the Executive Agencies designate a CISO or point of contact and file it with the Georgia Technology Authority. This new structure provides the confidence and structure necessary to implement a mandatory cyber incident notification process.

Q: Do you feel your experience in the insurance industry is a factor in your urgency to recommend the state secure Cyber insurance immediately?

A: Yes. My colleagues in the General Assembly have worked diligently with the Governor over the past few years to build up the “rainy day” reserve fund to over $2 billion, and a few uninsured incidents could significantly impact those gains. In the past two years, both Georgia and South Carolina have encountered incidences that cost those states over $43 million in mitigation costs. It is only a matter of time before Georgia encounters another attack, and I believe Cyber Insurance is a responsible method to protect the state’s fiscal stability when a catastrophic data incident occurs, and after conducting third-party assessments on each agency, Georgia is now positioned to take advantage of such a policy.

Q: Do you think that the huge investment announced in the Governor’s State of the State address will pay dividends for the state?

A: I am very supportive of the announcement from the Governor in regards to this investment, and this action will serve as the foundation necessary for Georgia to reap enormous economic returns. Cyber security has rapidly developed into a billion dollar industry, and the talent in the United States lags well behind the demand. We recognized that Augusta University is uniquely positioned to facilitate and collaborate with several other state colleges and universities to provide the necessary programs and curriculum to boost the talent pool in this field. These positions have virtually 0% unemployment, and often offer a six figure starting salary. With a projected 1 million positions needed within 3-5 years, Georgia will be well positioned to begin meeting those needs and reaping the benefits economically.

Senator Thompson also stated that he is blessed to enjoy a close relationship with Georgia law enforcement agencies including GBI Director Vernon Keenan. The rise in cyber crime has created an incredible strain on the ability to respond with the effectiveness and timing the community has come to expect. As a response, a new cybercrime laboratory will be strategically located in Augusta leveraging the talent and resources being cultivated from NSA, Army Cyber Command, and the new State Cybersecurity Training Academy.

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