The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is awarding $250,000 in grants to 94 municipalities and public school districts to provide cybersecurity awareness training for 42,000 employees across the state.

Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Secretary of Technology Services and Security Curt Wood joined legislative, municipal and public school officials at Worcester City Hall to make the announcement this week.  October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

The participating employees will receive interactive online training in topics ranging from email security to USB device safety. Employees will also receive simulated phishing emails. Phishing is a growing threat in local government in which an attacker seeks to influence the employee to take an action that may be harmful to the organization, by masquerading as a trusted entity.

Governor Charlie Baker said, “Raising awareness of the challenges posed by cyber threats is an important strategy for the Commonwealth’s communities to best train and equip its employees with the tools needed to defend against cyber threats. We are pleased to collaborate with our partners in local government to understand how we can better protect our communities.”

Lt. Governor Polito said, “Cybersecurity is a critical issue for Massachusetts communities and schools who face cybersecurity threats but sometimes lack the resources to prepare for and combat them. These first-ever cybersecurity grant funds are a crucial tool to complement the over $9 million in funding for municipal IT infrastructure projects through the Community Compact program in providing Massachusetts communities and schools the resources and tools they need to combat cyber threats.”

The grant funding was included, in part in the Fiscal Year 2019, operating budget passed by the Legislature and matched by the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security to ensure as many communities and schools could participate in the cybersecurity training as possible.

In June 2017, Governor Baker established the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTSS) as a cabinet-level information technology organization in the Executive Branch.  EOTSS  began deployment of annualized cybersecurity awareness training for Executive Branch employees to better detect and mitigate cyber threats at the state level in 2018. The training will be enhanced year-over-year to account for evolving trends in cyber threats.

In April 2019, Governor Baker filed a $1.1 billion bond bill that includes $600 million in information technology (IT) infrastructure funding. $140 million of the funds are dedicated to further enhance the cybersecurity of the Commonwealth’s digital assets including the standing up of a new Security Operations Center.

Technology Services and Security Secretary Curt Wood said, “Cyberattacks are an emerging and increasing threat to communities across the Commonwealth and the nation. By strengthening our communities’ cybersecurity posture, we are preparing municipal and school employees to better detect and defend against cyber threats.”

Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus said, “Failure to proactively defend against cybersecurity threats in today’s digital world puts both the city and its residents at risk. This is why training city staff to follow best practices and to be vigilant in the prevention of online attacks is so critical. We are grateful that the State is taking this issue seriously and we will continue to work together to keep our community safe.”

Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury), who served as Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Cyber Security Readiness, said, “In the wake of growing concerns relative to data privacy, security and increased threats, we are taking action to improve the Commonwealth’s preparedness within the cyber space. These efforts complement a national conversation and need for resources to support cybersecurity readiness. I commend the Administration for taking an active role in working to better prepare our schools and municipalities for these very real threats.”