Pennsylvania Releases Consumer Cybersecurity Guide

Recent high-profile breaches prompted 10 state agencies to release a document aimed at providing data protection resources to citizens.

by Bill O'Boyle, The Times Leader / October 10, 2017
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Shutterstock

(TNS) -- WILKES-BARRE -- In the wake of high-profile cyberattacks targeting businesses, governments and other organizations, the Wolf administration this week reminded Pennsylvanians to take appropriate steps to protect their personal and financial data.

"We depend on technology and the Internet in so many ways, which is why all of us must do our part to keep them secure," said Gov. Tom Wolf in a press release. "No one is immune to cyberattacks. However, there are many simple things we can do that reduce the chances of being a victim."

Leaders of several state agencies also spoke about their efforts to protect the public from cyber threats.

Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann said the frequency and complexity of cyberattacks, especially following the Equifax data breach, reinforce the need for everyone and every organization to have conversations about cybersecurity and to make plans to protect themselves.

In response to this challenge, Wiessmann said the state has launched a cybersecurity guide for consumers, produced by a collaboration of 10 state agencies and offices. The online guide will help consumers protect themselves and their families as they navigate the Internet in their daily lives.

The guide includes tips to prevent identity theft, protect passwords, keep children safe online and secure mobile devices.

The Office of Administration (OA) oversees cybersecurity for agencies under the governor's jurisdiction and is a leader among states in security, the release says. Pennsylvania recently earned top honors for cybersecurity from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers for cloud security using risk-based, multi-factor authentication.

Currently in use for cloud email and storage, the service reduces the risk of unauthorized access by requiring users to provide information, in addition to a user name and password, to verify their identities. The state intends to implement the safeguard on additional systems in the future.

The Department of State takes full advantage of OA's expertise as part of its strategy to safeguard the commonwealth's electoral system, including the statewide voter registration database.

State agencies are also focused on planning and preparedness. In 2016, Pennsylvania was one of the first states in the nation to hold an exercise focused on the response to a prolonged, widespread power outage, such as from a cyber attack. In August, the Public Utility Commission, Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency took part in a first-ever transnational exercise to test responses to a large-scale power outage event.

Voter registration deadline is Oct. 10

Secretary of State Pedro A. Cortés this week reminded Pennsylvanians they have until Tuesday, Oct. 10, to register to vote in the November election. He encouraged citizens to take advantage of the online voter registration (OVR) site.

Eligible citizens have until Tuesday to apply for a new voter registration or make changes to their existing registration.

The state's OVR application can be found at register.votesPA.com. In addition to applying for a new registration, the OVR system can also be used to make updates to an existing voter record, such as a change of name, address or party affiliation. Since the OVR launch in August 2015, more than 962,000 eligible Pennsylvanians have used the site.

Voters are also encouraged to use the online system to confirm their registration status prior to the deadline.

Registered voters planning to cast an absentee ballot are advised to pay close attention to important deadlines. Although the deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 31, the voted ballots must be received in the county election office by 5 p.m. Nov. 3.

Individuals wishing to register to vote in the November election must be:

  • A citizen of the United States for at least one month before the election.
  • A resident of Pennsylvania and the election district in which the individual desires to register and vote for at least 30 days before the election.
  • At least 18 years of age on or before the date of the election.

©2017 The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.