The US Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will inject around $375 million into state and local government coffers in order to increase cyber resilience. The sector has been pummeled by ransomware attacks in recent months.
The State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program (SLCGP), now in its second year, is a $1 billion fund with allocations spanning four years and specifically targeting state, local, and territorial government cyber resilience efforts.
Potential grantees have until October 6th to submit applications for the new wave of funds, a DHS press release said. In what’s a sure sign of urgency, all but two states and territories have applied for a piece of the first year’s $185 million tranche.
The program, overseen by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is meant to help state and local governments defend against ransomware and other cyberattacks.
“In today’s threat environment, any locality is vulnerable to a devastating cyber attack targeted at a hospital, school, water, or other system,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.
“The Department of Homeland Security is helping to ensure that every community, regardless of size, funding, or resources, can meet these threats and keep their residents and their critical infrastructure safe and secure. These cybersecurity grants will help state, local, and territorial governments do just that, and I strongly urge communities across the country to submit an application.”
Cyberattacks have indeed become routine in recent months, and ransomware hits in particular have crippled services in communities of all sizes.
In late July, for example, an optometry clinic in South Carolina was hit by a ransomware attack that compromised the personal health information of more than 60,000 patients. In April, the South Carolina county of Spartanburg had to deal with another ransomware attack that had constrained its IT and phone systems.
In May, the city of Dallas in Texas confirmed to Cybernews that it had also been hit by ransomware. The attack affected city services – Dallas had to shut down its municipal court system, and the fire and police departments reported that one of the dispatch systems used by their 911 and 311 call centers had been disabled.
“State and local governments are facing increasingly sophisticated cyber threats to their critical infrastructure and public safety,” said CISA Director Jen Easterly.
“As the Nation’s Cyber Defense Agency, CISA is pleased to make available yet another tool that will help strengthen cyber defenses for communities across the nation and bolster our collective cybersecurity.”
The newly available funds can be used for a range of cyber resilience investments, the DHS press release said, including what it called “planning and exercising” as well as recruiting and paying for personnel with cyber expertise.
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