North Dakota information technology officials want to more than quadruple the number of cybersecurity experts to guard against a growing number of threats to state data systems.
North Dakota Information Technology Department Chief Information Officer Shawn Riley told a bipartisan panel of lawmakers Tuesday that his agency will ask for more than $11 million in software upgrades and 37 additional cybersecurity experts in the next two-year budget.
The state employs only 11 cybersecurity experts now, he said.
Riley said North Dakota data systems defended against 34 million attacks over a recent six-month period and the threat is increasing.
"We have a huge challenge in front of us," Riley said.
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Democratic Sen. Larry Robinson, of Valley City, said the Legislature should fund the agency's request when lawmakers reconvene in January.
"I think we need to step up to the plate here," Robinson told the Information Technology Committee. "It's wrong if we ignore it."
In addition to leading the state's cybersecurity efforts, the agency supports the information technology needs of state government, K-12 education and higher education.
It has 344 employees and a two-year budget $245 million, though it intends to slash $77 million and 17 employees as part of a directive to all state agencies from Republican Gov. Doug Burgum to cut budgets and staffing in the next two-year budget cycle.
Riley estimated the cost of additional cybersecurity experts would be about $12 million in salary and benefits annually.