Opinion: Michigan Legislature budget slices cybersecurity. This is alarming

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.

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Fri, 10/18/2019 - 11:25am

Michigan legislators are clueless if they are cutting cybersecurity. Vote them all out! Do you really want all your State Tax, Voter Registration, car ownership information, car license numbers open for public viewing? That of course would include credit card information that you use to renew your driver's license or purchase your license plates. Your social security number needs protection!

Kevin Grand
Sun, 10/20/2019 - 1:43pm

I'm not sure what is even more alarming, an IT expert who didn't think that there was a government computer network which DIDN'T get attacked, or the fact that the DTMB might have had their budget cut due to their own incompetence, rather than pure politics.

I've had more than a few current and former state politicians from both parties who have told me there are in reality FOUR branches of government: Legislative, Executive, Judicial and the bureaucracy.

The problem here is that you cannot remove the bureaucracy.

Off of the top of my head, I can cite several examples in which Lansing IT "professionals" have dropped the ball from the thousands who were charged with fraud from an IT screw up (no one has yet faced criminal charges for that mess), to the well documented problems with the SoS that continue to this very day (i.e. under Ms. Foster's watch).




Surprisingly, not all of these network problems get reported by the media.

In the real world, when an employer has an employee who cannot(/will not?) perform the task that they were hired for, they are shown the door. No care package. No golden parachutes. Just clean out your desk, turn in your keys, leave and don't ever bother coming back.

Perhaps, Ms. Foster will write a follow up piece detailing how and when she will put into practice this time-tested trait to ensure performance goals are actually achieved, which hopefully, she picked up before her retirement from her previous position.