Scott Administration Ramps Up Battle Against Cyber Attacks

Apr 16, 2018

It's a new state agency that most people have never heard of and its primary job is to protect all of the state's computer systems and data from a cyber attack. Agency secretary John Quinn says it's an ongoing and relentless battle.

"We're seeing over four million attempts a year so there's always scans going on from outside entities, bad actors trying to figure out what we have and where we have it,” said Quinn.  

Quinn says "different bad actors" are often seeking different types of data that they hope to use illegally.

We're seeing over four million attempts a year so there's always scans going on from outside entities, bad actors trying to figure out what we have and where we have it." — Agency of Digital Services Secretary John Quinn

"Whether it's personal information, financial information, health care data, IRS data, the state of Vermont has a lot of different types of data that we hold,” said Quinn.   

Previously, each department of state government had its own IT team but a year ago the Scott Administration created the Agency of Digital Services to provide uniform cyber protections.

Now, the 400 IT people in those various departments report to Quinn.

"We try to stay vigilant and stay up to date on new attacks that are coming out but attacks are becoming more sophisticated every day." — John Quinn, Agency of Digital Services Secretary

“We try to stay vigilant and stay up to date on new attacks that are coming out but attacks are becoming more sophisticated every day,” said Quinn. “It is a growing concern not only for Vermont but for the United States as a whole."

Before the Agency was created, Quinn says the state was more vulnerable to a cyber attack because there weren't common protection protocols in place.

"So now when we have a patch for a system, we know what systems we have out there, now we know where the patch has to go we know what update needs to be done and where,” said Quinn. “Whereas before we were flying in the dark in a lot of cases."

In the coming year, Quinn hopes to expand the capability of his Agency so that cyber attacks can be monitored in real time in every hour of every day.

"So if there is an incident in the middle of the night that we have someone available to be able to respond and not just respond on Monday morning or the next morning after it happens," said Quinn.   

Quinn is seeking an additional $600,000 in this year's budget to cover the cost of providing 24/7 cyber protection coverage in the next fiscal year.