R.I. forms cybersecurity partnership

State says team is model for US

By Laura Crimaldi
Associated Press / July 12, 2011

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PROVIDENCE - State officials unveiled yesterday a new team of law enforcement officers, emergency planners, academics, and private businesses aimed at taking down threats to cyber security and tackling cyber attacks when they happen.

Members of the new Rhode Island Cyber Disruption Team said the partnership is a model for other states trying to pool resources in and out of government to address cybersecurity problems.

“Rhode Island is really leading the country,’’ said J. David Smith, executive director of the state Emergency Management Agency. “Cyber is just one of those elements of the state’s emergency operations plan that we can’t ignore. It has to be a high-profile focus.’’

US Representative Jim Langevin announced the team at a press conference at Dell SecureWorks in Providence. Langevin is cofounder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, and Dell SecureWorks is also a member of the team.

The eight people named to the team include four state and local police officers, two academics, and representatives from the state Emergency Management Agency and the Providence Information Technology Department.

The team has financial support from the State Police and emergency management officials, but no money has been set aside specifically for this effort, said State Police Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell.

The team is responsible for evaluating the state’s computer infrastructure, identifying weaknesses, and proposing solutions to problems. It also will act as a resource for officials in the event of a cybersecurity crisis.

Last month, the state said it had a plan for responding to computer-security problems caused by a natural disaster or widespread virus. A separate effort paid for by US Department of Homeland Security grant money allowed officials to assess the state’s computer infrastructure, said Theresa C. Murray, a regional catastrophe response planner for the state.

“It’s kind of an understatement to say how critical it is that every state have a solid plan and test that cyberplan that is in place,’’ said Major Alan J. White, Dell SecureWorks’ director of security and risk consulting and leader of the Rhode Island Army National Guard’s Computer Emergency Response Team.

Dell SecureWorks processes about 15 billion cybersecurity events daily to protect customers, White said. The company is also hiring to fill 50 new positions working on cybersecurity.

Langevin highlighted the field as a potential area of job growth. The Central Intelligence Agency estimates there are about 1,000 people nationwide who are qualified to work on cybersecurity issues at a “world-class level.’’ He said 20,000 to 30,000 cybersecurity experts are needed.

“Government alone cannot provide the . . . protection that we need,’’ Langevin said.

Officials have already discussed their cybersecurity priorities with local emergency managers and NorthEast Disaster Recovery X-Change, Murray said, and plan to approach area chambers of commerce.

“When your whole life . . . is all on one device and that device stops working, what do you do?’’ asked Doug White, a member of the team and director of the Forensics Applied Networking and Security Center at Roger Williams University. He is not related to Alan J. White.