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Recent Ransomware Attacks Figure Into CNY Discussion On Bolstering Cybersecurity

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Scott Willis
Rep. John Katko is flanked by CISA Deputy Director Nitin Natarajan and OCC President Casey Crabill. The roundtable was held at SRC Arena.

The ransomware attacks and cyber threats that big corporations and government entities are fighting are also a threat to Central New York government and local businesses. Congress member John Katko is ranking member on the House Committee on Homeland Security. He brought cyber-security experts from Washington to raise awareness of that threat, and met with local leaders at a roundtable discussion.

"They represent governments. They represent water authorities. They represent businesses and trade associations. No one is immune to a cyber attack. We know that from the Syracuse City School District attack. We know that from the Onondaga County Libraries attack. We know that from Fayetteville-Manlius attack."

Katko says the public-private model that helped solve COVID pandemic problems could be used here. The federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency – or CISA - offers free help to local businesses and governments to address cyber threats. Deputy Director Nitin Natarajan hopes that assistance goes further than fixing systems or recovering data.

"We want to be able to provide tools, resources, and capabilities to help then identify risks and vulnerabilities within their network, to help mitigate some of those risks, to help respond. But ideally, we want to shift as much of that to pre-incident as possible. We want to have response capabilities, but ideally, we want to prevent these from even occurring."

He adds the threats are only going to increase and get more sophisticated. Onondaga County officials say the federal help is an opportunity to be safer. But County Executive Ryan McMahon says the growing field of cybersecurity is also an opportunity for Onondaga Community College to teach local students to fill that need.

"That represents a workforce opportunity to train our young people not just how to use technology better to avoid risk, but to take advantage, to be the people working in this industry."

Rep. Katko added that even before college, the planned regional STEAM school at Syracuse Central could offer curricula in the field to give local students a running start.

Meanwhile, Katko says he’s working on legislation to bolster CISA, which he describes as overwhelmed.

"We're committed to making CISA a much better-funded agency. They are doing a tremendous amount of work. A lot of these businesses and entities around the table have told me they're already working with CISA. They're an agency that needs to be plussed up to deal with this threat."

Katko says CISA should be on track to becoming a $5 billion agency within five years with increased capacity for threat hunting and voluntary cybersecurity assessment services.

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Scott Willis

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at