Tricia L. Foster is director of Michigan's Department of Technology, Management, & Budget
After assuming my role as director of the Department of Technology, Management, & Budget in January, I was surprised to learn that our state government faces more than 1.5 million attempted cyberattacks on our IT networks, servers, and systems every day. Fending off these criminal attempts to access private information is a top priority for our team.
This statistic is not being shared to shock or scare anyone, yet it is important for every Michigander to understand that, as we make progress to expand our digital footprint and online capabilities, there are risks. Cybersecurity incidents have increased 1,300 percent since 2015. Criminals in this country and around the globe are aggressively searching for Social Security data, birth records and financial information.
Protecting our private information is critical, and we must work together to strengthen our defenses, regardless of our political affiliations. The recent budget presented to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had more than $4 million in cuts to the state’s cybersecurity efforts. Those cuts should be alarming to all of us.
Private and public organizations are ramping up their investment in cybersecurity because it is the single greatest threat to their ongoing ability to operate. The problem is only getting worse as more of our personal information is available online, more transactions take place through the web, and as cyber criminals become more sophisticated.
Safeguards must be built into every aspect of the technology we use. Cybersecurity is needed to improve customer service, eliminate the long lines for licenses and registrations, and to drive enterprise-wide solutions leading to improved efficiencies and a less expensive government. It is also necessary so that Michigan is not the next national headline for a major breach, costing taxpayers millions and compromising public trust in government to protect our vital records.
Further, Michigan has been recognized annually as a national leader in safeguarding our residents’ sensitive information. Past political leaders committed adequate dollars for investment in both people and technology to ensure our state data is secure. Governor Whitmer recommended increases for cybersecurity in her budget presented to the Legislature, and it is essential that our current political leaders support that ongoing investment.
Michiganders don’t have a choice about sharing their information with government and we don’t have a choice about protecting it to the best of our ability -– it is not negotiable.