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Massachusetts Announces School Grants for Cyber Training

Worcester, the state’s second largest city, will use the funds to provide interactive online training to 1,800 government and school employees in topics from email security to USB device safety.

by Brian Lee, Telegram & Gazette / November 1, 2019

(TNS) — The state on Tuesday announced grants totaling $250,000 to 94 municipalities and public school districts to provide cybersecurity awareness training for more than 42,000 employees.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito addressed award recipients at Worcester City Hall to mark the end of October as Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

Approximately 1,800 government and school employees in Worcester will receive the training. Town employees in Auburn, Berlin, Boylston, Holden and Ware, employees of the Southern Worcester County Regional School District, and school and municipal employees of Leominster will also receive the interactive online training in topics from email security to USB device safety.

Employees will also receive simulated phishing emails, as 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, according to the state.

"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," Gov. Charlie Baker said. "We are pleased to collaborate with our partners in local government to understand how we can better protect our communities."

"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," Polito added. "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 2019 operating budget passed by the Legislature and matched by the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security.

In June 2017, Baker filed legislation to establish the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security.

Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. expressed appreciation for the grant.

"Failure to proactively defend against cybersecurity threats in today's digital world puts both the city and its residents at risk," Augustus said. "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."

"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," said state Sen. Michael O. Moore, D-Millbury.

Moore, who served as chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Cyber Security Readiness, added: "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."

©2019 Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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