MNIT cyber security plan received with hesitation after troubled MNLARS

Minnesota's IT services unveiled its five-year cyber security plan with the aim to protect state data and systems from attacks. However, lawmakers received the plan with hesitation as this is the agency behind the troubled MNLARS system.  

“I understand the political climate right now,” said Johanna Clyborne. “I understand the frustrations.”

The new commissioner of MNIT, knows the MNLARS software debacle made them a target of lawmakers, Republicans in particular. The department is well aware it hurt its chances of getting funding for cyber security.

They say the threats against Minnesota systems, such as hacking and phishing, are growing more sophisticated. Their hardware and software to fight those threats are aging.

“Minnesota state systems that are connected to the internet are scanned and probed by the bad guys 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” said Scott Rysdahl, a security analyst at MNIT.

In the state’s security center, they see about three million pokes and scans of state systems a day. The biggest number is from Russia, followed by the U.S. and China. Though they say those hits are just from the last part of the hack and may or may not be where the hack began.

“Even for military agencies that have the benefit of vast intelligence organizations, it’s difficult to pin down exactly where they’re coming from,” said Rysdahl.

MNIT is asking for $19.7 million for upgrades. It’s in the Governor’s supplemental budget. House Republicans, unhappy with the MNLARS rollout, are considering a bill that would completely revamp the department, which would put security upgrades in limbo.

MNIT’s new commissioner says it can’t wait.

“This year alone, we’ve seen a significant increase in attacks,” said Clyborne.