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Kansas Sets Up Bipartisan Cybersecurity Task Force

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has assembled a 15-member bipartisan task force to protect the state against cyber crime. The group, made up of government and private-sector reps, will submit its first report later this year.

Kansas now has an extra resource to help defend its digital infrastructure: a cybersecurity task force established by Gov. Laura Kelly.

The group, which consists of 15 individuals from the public and private sectors, will develop a comprehensive plan to protect the state’s networks and digital services.

Broadly, the task force will also grow relationships between private and public entities and identify various ways that state and local agencies can improve their cybersecurity posture, among other duties.

“We have not had any cyber attacks that have seriously impacted the state,” Kelly said. “However, we did see a lot of fraud in our department of labor regarding unemployment benefits.”

According to Kelly, one of the reasons for the fraud was the federal government setting up new unemployment programs without giving state officials the authority to ask questions about the programs.

Because of this limitation, she said, the state set up a firewall to mitigate potentially fraudulent claims. The firewall has blocked about 8 million claims so far.

“Cyber attacks know no boundaries; they don’t care,” Kelly said. “If the state brings everyone together, we can be better prepared to anticipate and mitigate attacks more efficiently.”

John Godfrey, a task force member and chief information security officer for the University of Kansas Medical Center, said a bipartisan approach is vital to the state’s success.

“Comprehensive planning requires diverse inputs,” Godfrey said via email. “This task force has bipartisan representation, including public- and private-sector representatives. The task force also has a shared purpose and mission. We are all here because we want to be of service to Kansans while strengthening security, increasing resiliency and preventing disruptions to services and systems.”

These factors, he said, will ensure a collaborative approach to developing this important plan.

As for what comes next, the group is required to submit an initial report to the governor within the next 90 days, detailing recommendations and proposals for the task force's work. After that report is completed, the group must submit a finalized comprehensive report and recommendations to the governor by Dec. 5.

"To date, the overall response towards assembling this task force has been incredibly positive," Kelly said. "We welcome the opportunity to bring all of these groups together and blend their good work into something that will be more effective and beneficial for the state."
Katya Maruri is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University.