Nevada lawmakers hear pitch for Cyber Defense Office |

Nevada lawmakers hear pitch for Cyber Defense Office

Public Safety Director Jim Wright on Thursday told lawmakers Nevada needs to unify and expand its ability to find, track and stop cyber attacks.

His proposed budget includes creation of a Cyber Defense Office that would bring together not only public safety agencies but other agency efforts in the war against hacking, including the Enterprise Information Technology Services division.

Wright said the office would treat cyber attacks in much the same way the Department of Public Services currently treats terrorism, natural disasters and other emergencies. There are currently local efforts to combat hacking and other cyber crime in Clark and Washoe counties as well as major private industries including utilities in Nevada. But they aren’t working together.

“Right now everybody’s doing their own thing,” Wright said.

He’s seeking $876,365 over the biennium to hire four staff to create the office and begin bringing together the various agencies dealing with cyber threats. That would consist of an administrator, assistant, IT professional he described as “a translator” and a management analyst.

The office, he said, would be a kind of “focal point” for those efforts.

He said the office would be located within DPS for a variety of reasons.

He said unlike most other agencies and the private sector, public safety has access to the FBI and national criminal information data.

“Most of these attacks have a criminal background so it’s a natural fit for us,” Wright said.

He said public safety already has several programs that deal with emergencies and similar situations including the Division of Investigations, the Fusion Centers that concentrate on terror and natural disasters as well as the Division of Emergency Management.

But he said it isn’t the goal to be actually doing the IT work to combat attacks.

“It’s not going to take over from EITS and other agencies,” he said.

With the goal of treating cyber attacks just as they do other threats, he said, the office would coordinate planning and preparation ahead of any hacking. The office would then coordinate investigation, response and recovery efforts.

“I see it as growing into something larger, into a center,” he said. “There are a lot of pieces out there and they are not coordinated.”

He said that means eventually bringing in local government and even private entities.

“It’s about public safety and the ability to respond to all types of criminal or public safety threats to Nevada,” Wright said.

The joint Senate Finance, Assembly Ways and Means subcommittee took no action on the proposal.