Summit aims to prepare departments for future cyberattacks

Florida Department of Education fell victim to attack earlier this year

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Every Florida resident has some piece of information about themselves on a state computer, and that makes government computers targets for hackers, but the state isn't sitting idly by.

The Florida Department of Education fell victim to a high-profile cyber attack earlier this year. It came during statewide school testing.

"We are trying to identify the perpetrators of that attack," FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in March.

The incident raised questions about state government Internet security. The Agency for State Technology is holding a tech summit this week to better prepare departments for future attacks.

"We often say it's not a question of 'if' but 'when' something like that is going to happen, and we have to make sure we have a good quality response and a good understanding of the types of threats that are out there," Agency for State Technology Executive Director Jason Allison said.

The Department of Education certainly isn't the only victim.

"There are a lot of probes and kinds of activities that go on throughout the nation as a whole."

Using a truck, the state along with the National Guard will actually simulate a cyber attack on government computers as part of the training.

Different agencies will get the chance to do a mock scenario where computers are attacked. The state's chief information security officer, Danielle Alvarez, said they can come in many different forms.

"Sometimes there's an economic facet to the attacks. Sometimes there's information they're wanting, health information, because they're wanting to steal an identity to receive benefits, it varies," Alvarez said. "Sometimes they're an activist motivated attack, which we tend to call those 'hacktivists.'"

No suspects were ever identified and the case was closed in September in the cyberattack against the state's standardized tests.

The cyber summit in the state capital included presentations from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in an effort to better train departments to handle online attacks.

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