August 24, 2021

Senator Hassan and New Hampshire Cybersecurity Leaders Discuss Importance of State and Local Cybersecurity Funding in Bipartisan Infrastructure Package

Sen. Hassan Led Efforts to Secure $1 Billion for a State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program in Bipartisan Infrastructure Package - New Hampshire Would Receive at Least $10 Million Over Four Years

MANCHESTER, NH – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan yesterday discussed the state and local cyber security grant program that she helped secure in the bipartisan infrastructure package at a roundtable at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester. In addition, New Hampshire now has a State Cybersecurity Coordinator following passage of the annual defense bill that included Senator Hassan’s provision to create this position in every state. Senator Hassan was joined by cybersecurity experts in New Hampshire, including Denis Goulet, Chief Information Officer for the State of New Hampshire, and other local leaders on cybersecurity, including those who have been directly impacted by cyberattacks.

 

Yesterday’s roundtable came shortly before news that cybercriminals targeted the Town of Peterborough, which further underscores the need for additional investments in state and local cybersecurity.

 

“In New Hampshire and all across the country, we’ve seen a rise in cybersecurity threats on schools, hospitals, businesses, local governments, and more. And these attacks threaten crucial services, and they put our security at risk, and they're continuing to evolve. Unfortunately, even as the attacks have become more and more common, state and local governments don't often have the adequate resources to defend against them,” said Senator Hassan at yesterday’s roundtable. “That's why I worked across the aisle to secure a cybersecurity coordinator in each state, including in New Hampshire. It’s also very clear that we have more work to do to make sure that states and localities have the resources that they need. That’s why something I’ve been working on – which was included as part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate – is a program that would create a state and local cybersecurity grant.”

 

Denis Goulet discussed the state and local cybersecurity grant in the bipartisan infrastructure package stating, “We are really excited and really watching closely that this [bipartisan infrastructure package] will leap over the next legislative hurdle. The two big things that I think are being strategic on how we invest and also investing in a way that is actually useful and consumable, and something that we can continue after the grants expire.”

 

Lieutenant Joe Villers, Captain Joe Ebert, and Lieutenant Brian Strong of the New Hampshire State Police praised the state and local cyber grants program, saying that it would help transparency and collaboration in the intelligence community. Captain Taylor Puksta of the New Hampshire National Guard also shared that this new funding would assist them in connecting with local entities that are smaller and do not normally have statewide purview.

 

“Salem was the victim last fall of a cyberattack, and we after the fact have learned many different things,” said Chris Dillon, Town Manager for Salem. “Unfortunately it just takes one incident of somebody clicking on a link. We have 240 employees, over 305 devices connected to our network, and it just was that one click that ended up causing chaos for a little bit of time.”

 

Chris Dillon went on to state that investing in training could help prevent such attacks, which the state and local cybersecurity grants program could do.  

 

Sherriff Marc Brave of Stafford County was also present at the roundtable. After ransomware attacks hit Strafford County in 2019, Senator Hassan met with officials to discuss what more the federal government can do to help prepare for and combat these attacks.

 

“Strafford County a couple years ago was hit by a pretty significant virus,” Sheriff Mark Brave of Strafford County said. “It was pretty significant, and it was an eye opener. As law enforcement officers, you think that someone attacking you or stealing from you is in person. But not here, this is the future. And I think this grant, Senator, is going to put New Hampshire in the forefront and keep us prepared.”

 

The full list of roundtable participants included: Mark Brave, Sheriff of Strafford County; Margaret Byrnes, Executive Director of New Hampshire Municipal Association; Chris Dillon, Town Manager of Salem; Maeve Dion, Assistant Professor of Security Studies at University of New Hampshire (UNH); Captain Joe Ebert, Captain with New Hampshire State Police; Denis Goulet, Commissioner of New Hampshire Department of Information Technology (NH DoIT) and Chief Information Officer of State of New Hampshire; Tom Hathcoat, Director of IT & Cybersecurity at Catholic Medical Center; Captain Taylor Puksta, Chief Information Security Officer at the New Hampshire Army National Guard, Lt. Brian Strong, Lieutenant with Special Investigations Unit, New Hampshire State Police; and Lt. Joe Villers, Director of NH Information and Analysis Center, New Hampshire State Police.

 

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