Floridians are nicely acquainted with pure disasters. In any case, we’ve had quite a lot of observe.

With abilities born of expertise, we adeptly monitor rising climate occasions, assess the danger to native areas, and implement emergency plans to guard households, houses, and companies. But life-threatening climate is not the one main menace on Florida’s horizon.

Cyberterrorism has rendered the state’s technological landscapes as susceptible as its coastlines. Public seaports, water remedy vegetation, faculty districts, airports, information facilities, and metropolis and county governments are actually prime targets. Assaults are on the rise, significantly as public entities grow to be more and more reliant on automation and sensible applied sciences.

In 2023 alone, cities of all sizes throughout the USA — together with Atlanta; Chicago; Lowell, Massachusetts; Nashua, New Hampshire; and New Orleans — succumbed to cyberattacks. This Legislative Session, our Florida legislature acknowledged this with the passage of HB 473 and SB/HB 275, which tackle compliance with requirements associated to cybersecurity incidents and prison penalties for tampering with crucial infrastructure.

FBI Director Christopher Wray not too long ago emphasised to Congress the unprecedented vulnerability of our nation’s crucial infrastructure to cyber-physical threats. He urged a united effort on the nationwide, state and native ranges. Director Wray particularly highlighted how these assaults are designed to inflict tangible hurt on Americans and communities.

This alarming development additional underscores the pressing want for complete cybersecurity measures and heightened vigilance throughout all sectors of society, particularly the entities like power utilities, water utilities, and extra that preserve our communities actually working undisrupted. Compounding this rising menace is the fact that technological advances have far outpaced cybersecurity training and workforce growth.

There may be true urgency for Florida public policymakers and public service entities to make sure our staff who function our crucial infrastructure know how one can acknowledge, put together for and mitigate cyberattacks.

In accordance with the 2023 Nationwide Cyber Workforce and Schooling Technique report, over 90% of jobs require digital abilities; nonetheless, almost 30% of American employees lack these abilities. Trade consultants additionally estimate that lower than 1% of the operational expertise (OT) workforce has the abilities needed to answer a cyberattack.

Extra troubling for Florida, a current state examine means that if a couple of neighborhood had been attacked concurrently, we might be very short-handed statewide. By any metric, built-in automation employees are briefly provide, significantly within the public sector, the place companies are understaffed but chargeable for managing among the nation’s most crucial infrastructure and operations.

Thankfully, Florida’s legislative leaders have acknowledged the necessity for motion, however native companies have to act on the chance created. By strategic investments and partnerships with organizations like Automation Technique & Efficiency (ASP), the state is taking decisive steps to bolster its cybersecurity preparedness.

The 2024 Florida Cybersecurity Initiative, spearheaded by ASP, goals to upskill the state’s crucial infrastructure workforce and certify them as OT cybersecurity specialists.

OT certification is completely different from IT Cybersecurity certification. It consists of IT certifications however provides cybersecurity protocols particular to bodily but networked gadgets that function vegetation, manufacturing, air flow, and extra.

Underneath the 12-month program, collaborating employees undergo rigorous IT and OT community and safety system cybersecurity certification and observe in simulated environments.

The distinctive worth of the 2024 Florida Cybersecurity Initiative is the accredited certification it gives. This one program combines a number of certifications to make sure that employees know what to do — and how one can do it — when unhealthy actors pose cybersecurity threats. With licensed OT cybersecurity specialists, public sector leaders will be assured of their employees’ skills to acknowledge threats, assess vulnerabilities, mitigate danger, monitor standing and reply to penetrations.

We’re excited that Florida has invested in providing this chance to public officers throughout all 67 counties. However the time to behave is now: the state has set a objective to have over 100 public staff enrolled on this new program by June 30, 2024.

Getting the phrase out on this program is step one. We ask all Florida public sector leaders — county Boards, municipal administrators, port authority leaders, public hospital operation heads, engineering leaders and extra — to achieve out to us so we are able to present an outline of this system and how one can take part and depend your self amongst these fortifying the state’s crucial infrastructures.

Collectively, we are able to do the required work to harden and rework our susceptible landscapes and make Florida a nationwide chief in OT cybersecurity preparedness.


Melissa Boutwell is president of Automation Technique & Efficiency (ASP), the most important and fastest-growing employer group offering scalable workforce options to the automation sector of crucial infrastructure industries. ASP has been charged by the State of Florida and the Pathways for Profession Alternatives Grant with upskilling public operational technical staff in all 67 counties throughout Florida by way of the 2024 Florida Cybersecurity Initiative

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