Guest Column: Cybersecurity: It’s a matter of trust for all

Published 1:00 am Monday, May 8, 2017

Guest Column by Richard C. Nash and Thomas A. Baden Jr.

This week you may have received an e-mail from a friend or colleague wanting to share a GoogleDoc file with you. If you got a note like this, you are not alone. This massive cyberattack targeted millions of people across our nation, and more than a billion people worldwide. This method was effective because it played upon our trust: If someone we know wants to share a document, we are more likely to follow through. This attack strategy damages our sense of trust in the sender, and it spreads by victimizing the friends, neighbors and colleagues of anyone who makes the mistake of clicking through.

Every day, criminals from around the world with huge financial incentives to succeed probe government technology systems searching for vulnerabilities that can be compromised. They attempt to steal private data, disrupt government operations and use government resources to enhance the reach of their criminal activity.

Richard C. Nash

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As the adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard and the chief information officer for the state of Minnesota, it is our duty to ensure that the technology systems we manage and the data we are entrusted with are protected from cyber threats.

Every piece of information we collect from Minnesotans is exchanged with a compact of trust that we will keep this information safe, and we need to ensure we do not break that trust. This responsibility extends to lawmakers who are currently working to shape the state’s budget over the next two years.

Nearly every government function that Minnesotans depend on is reliant on technology. But many of our technology systems run on outdated, unsupported technology that makes them a prime target for attack. If these systems are breached, Social Security numbers, student data, personal financial data and health records would be at risk. 

Thomas A. Baden Jr.

Over the course of the last year, our nation has experienced firsthand the exponential growth in cyber threats. This legislative session, Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a significant investment in cybersecurity to better protect Minnesota. Lawmakers should recognize this shared responsibility to act in defense of Minnesotans’ private data and the services they rely upon. In a time when public trust in government is often called into question, we must all recognize that the basic commitment made by government to protect and defend its citizens now extends to cyberspace.

If we do not act to protect the people of Minnesota, then it is fair that they would ask whether we are deserving of their trust at all.

Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash is adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard. Thomas A. Baden Jr. is chief information officer for the state of Minnesota.