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After eight months of work, Gov. Brad Little’s Cybersecurity Task Force released its final report Wednesday at the Idaho National Laboratory, laying out 18 recommendations to improve Idaho’s resistance to cyber-attacks.

They range from increasing K-12 computer science and math literacy to outreach to rural communities on how to combat threats to establishing a “Cyber Fusion Center” to communicate threats and lead response for everyone from government, utilities and universities to private companies.

“We all know that cybersecurity intrusions, corruption and fraud are global threats,” Little said. “They challenge the security of all citizens, businesses and governments at every level.”

Led by the INL and the Idaho Department of Commerce, the 19-member task force started meeting last August, focusing on critical infrastructure, workforce development and education, election security and cybersecurity awareness.

“Active public engagement is vital,” said Tom Kealey, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce, who co-chaired the task force with INL Associate Lab Director Zach Tudor. “With nearly every Idaho citizen, business and organization connected to the internet and other networks, cybersecurity becomes everyone’s responsibility.”

Tudor said with billions of devices all connected online, “Much of this technology isn’t properly secured. That means these systems and the people that rely on them are at risk.”

The report points to everything from ransomware and malware attacks that have targeted some Idaho local governments, to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and national alerts about cyber-threats.

The aim was “how do we basically help Idaho become the nation’s most secure state,” Kealey said.

Little first chaired a cybersecurity task force when he was lieutenant governor starting in 2015, which led the state to hire its first state director of information security. In 2017, with legislative approval, the state Board of Education used its bonding authority to construct two state-of-the-art computing and cybersecurity facilities at INL. In 2020, the Legislature approved the state’s request for expansion of cybersecurity education at Idaho’s three public research universities, all of which now offer cybersecurity degree programs.

The task force found there’s much more to do, from funding additional university instructors to recruiting Idaho veterans to work in cybersecurity to enhancing election technology and processes. This year, the Legislature approved Little’s request for $12 million for a new Cyber Response and Defense Fund, and funded new post-election audits with wide support.

“This is not a one and done,” Little said. “We’re going to have to continue with these recommendations.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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