Utah state government now is fending off massive cyberattacks almost constantly, according to State Chief Information Officer Michael Hussey.
Two years ago, the state saw about 150 million of them a day trying to hack into its systems.
“Now on any day, we’re going to be north of 300 million. We peak out at probably 800 million to 900 million,” he told lawmakers on Tuesday. One example: “Last Thursday, we had 800 million attacks.”
To help stay ahead of the assault, he asked a legislative budget committee on Tuesday to consider $19.5 million to construct a home for a new state cybercenter. It would be north of the current state office building on the State Capitol complex, and would also house more than just a cybersecurity center.
“It’s also to create workspace” for other agencies, he said. “In the state office building, we have no wiggle room. So we are trying to create places to go.”
He said the new center would coordinate under one roof the state cybersecurity efforts now spread among such agencies as the Department of Technology Services, the Department of Public Safety and the attorney general’s office.
“So if somebody has an issue … we can immediately marshal the troops,” Hussey said. “We’ve had issues in this state where people just didn’t frankly know whom to call or where to go, and timing is everything with these kinds of things. So we want to market one place to go for any incident.”
Lawmakers asked Hussey to explain some methods the state uses to keep ahead of attacks.
He said he didn’t want to give away too much, but, “We’re building an artificial intelligence now that may help us understand the good traffic from the bad traffic. … That becomes more and more challenging because the bad guys are getting better and better at looking like good traffic.”
Hussey added the state sometimes intentionally makes a server appear to have vulnerabilities like a wounded deer “and everybody pounces on it. And when they pounce, there’s really no data there. … But you know those are the bad actors and you can block them.”
When asked how good Utah’s cybersecurity efforts are, Hussey said, “I think we’re doing a good job as far as states go. But I don’t know that we’re No. 1.”