The National Cybersecurity Center is offering free online cybersecurity training to legislators and statehouse staff in all states by year's end as a result of sponsorship from online technology giant Google.
The Colorado Springs-based think tank plans to begin the 60-90-minute live and on-demand training sessions beginning in May to help legislators and their staff avoid cyber attacks through its new Cybersecurity for State Leaders program, said Forrest Senti, the center's vice president of programs and operations who also is program lead for state program. He hopes most states will complete the training by July.
Fewer than "5% of legislators have a technical background and most of their knowledge comes from" media coverage, Senti said. "We want to make this an everyday thing for policymakers. If we offer a better opportunity to train legislators and staff, it will help make cybersecurity matter more and give them better knowledge about the threat that cyber attacks pose to businesses, government and individuals."
The training will include as presenters Robert Herjavec from the hit TV series "Shark Tank;" Heather Nauert, former undersecretary of state for public affairs and State Department spokeswoman; U.S. Sen Joe Manchin, D-W.V.; James Saunders, chief information security officer of the U.S. Small Business Administration Information Security Division and representatives from Google, IBM and Microsoft. Democratic Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose both have agreed to become ambassadors for the program.
The training will cover the ecosystem of cybersecurity, including what cybersecurity is and why it matters; why and how cyber attacks work and how to protect yourself through using multi-factor authentication, updating software, practicing password safety, encrypting files and messages and not clicking on dangerous emails and websites.
While the SolarWinds hack uncovered in December that affected more than 200 businesses and government agencies worldwide is not part of the curriculum but likely will be discussed during the training, Senti said. The massive attack is a key reason legislators should "get trained up" in cybersecurity to avoid becoming a victim, he said.
"Cybersecurity is more important than ever with businesses, government and private individuals falling victim to digital attacks every day," Senti said in a news release on the program. He called the program "a critical initiative that will help state leaders in all 50 states arm themselves and their teams with best practices to safeguard themselves and their constituents against cyber threats."