Creation of cyber defense office urged at Nevada Legislature |

Creation of cyber defense office urged at Nevada Legislature

The governor’s office, a list of state agencies and major businesses Friday called on lawmakers to create the Nevada Office of Cyber Defense.

Daniel Stewart, counsel to Gov. Brian Sandoval, told the Assembly Judiciary Committee creation of an umbrella office to coordinate efforts to defend the state, local governments and other entities from cyber attacks, security breaches and hackers is long overdue.

“This bill is mostly about defending the state, protecting government,” he said.

But he conceded those efforts are necessarily “reactionary.”

“There’s absolutely nothing we can do to prevent all attacks,” he said. “It’s a continually escalating arms race.”

The office, funded with a $3.5 million appropriation in the governor’s budget, would develop a strategic plan, plans to mitigate damage and recover from cyber security attacks using teams to investigate any assaults on state security and attempts to access or compromise confidential information.

He said agencies including the state’s IT offices are already doing a good job thwarting attacks. The cyber defense office, he said, would bring all the elements together.

Stewart said the issue isn’t about software and hardware as much as “the human element.”

“The biggest detriment is the lack of coordination,” he said.

Jim Wright, director of the Department of Public Safety, said the office would be within his department but won’t be taking over any technical systems: “We are there to coordinate,” he said.

Director of Administration Patrick Cates testified the proposed governor’s budget also includes “some substantial investment” to protect state systems.

The proposal in AB471 was also supported by GOED Director Steve Hill, who said the security risk is real: “This is an important step in mitigating that risk.”

Other backers included spokesmen for the data storage company Switch, Adjutant General Bill Burks and NV Energy as well as officials from Union Pacific Railroad.

The committee took no action on AB471.