Florida has allocated $30 million for cybersecurity funding to equip local governments with cybersecurity capabilities.
What is Funded:
All applications are eligible for access and incident response support from the State Cybersecurity Operations Center (SCOC) – this is significant (described below) and worth filling out the form if only for this capability.
Next this grant pays for new advanced security tools, it does not cover the cost of any existing tools or services you already have in place. The more advanced security tools you already have in place, the less help you will receive (on the purchase side). In other words, the more secure you are, the less help you will get from this grant.
Priority of funding:
- Municipalities that do not have any serious (advanced) security tools deployed.
- Municipalities with partially deployed environments. Grant helps fill in the gaps of missing tools.
- Fully deployed environments (professionally managed security in place). Still apply for IR support.
No actual cash is disbursed to municipalities as a part of this grant.
So why should you apply?
The goal of this program is to strengthen the entire cybersecurity footprint of government agencies in the state. The data you provide in your application will give the State Cybersecurity Operations Center (SCOC) valuable information about the strength or weakness of your cybersecurity tools and security processes that are currently handled by your IT staff or Managed Service Provider (MSP). Since each municipality provides this same type of data, the state can gain a viewpoint on the overall security level across the state and be better informed about where to make investments.
In your case the data basically demonstrates the level of help you may require. The more you need help the more likely you are to obtain some grant assistance.
Not Too Late to Apply
Time is running out but it is not too late. Here is the Timeline:
- February 16, 2023: Application Process Opened to All Local Governments in Florida
- March 31, 2023: Initial Application Window Closed
- April 18, 2023: Initial Announcement of Awards
What You Get
Incident Response Center of the SCOC
As part of this program any municipality awarded a grant will be given access to the Incident Response (IR) team at the State Cybersecurity Operations Center. (SCOC). In the case of a cyber event, you can reach out for assistance from the state when responding to the event. Those that have a security team or Managed Security provider with an Incident Response team, can still reach out for additional assistance from the state’s IR team.
Responding to an incident (not counting the potential ransom amount) is very expensive – most people underestimate the cost, which usually runs well into six figures even for relatively small entities.
Having direct access to the SCOC IR team could be a significant factor in reducing the cost of an Incident Response and probably help reduce the time it takes to declare business resumed. Because of this, it is well worth the effort of applying for the grant even if you do not believe you will qualify for more tools because you already have a full advanced security stack (tool set) in place.
If you are awarded the grant, the State Cybersecurity Operations Center (SCOC) team will purchase the missing tools identified that they decide should be added to your environment. They will then help your technical team install and configure each tool and provide some initial training. Once that is complete, they will leave and hand you the keys to your new tools – it will be up to your IT team to manage, monitor and maintain these new advanced tools in your environment.
For the Tech Team:
- The State will purchase and help you implement security tools and provide a tenant with these capabilities.
- You will have full control over your tenants.
- All the state requests is specific telemetry data to be fed to the state SCOC allowing them to keep track of the threat landscape.
- The State will not have administrative access to your tools.
You do NOT get IT Security Management or Managed Security
If you are granted new advanced security tools, that is a great start and these tools can make a significant difference in your security.
Note that the funding does not provide for hiring or training your team to fully handle security at this new level. To properly manage advanced security tools, patching systems to plug new security holes, and adjusting to the ever changing landscape of cyber-crime, requires a specialized trained team. Running good IT is difficult enough without the added load of advanced security protection. Many smaller municipalities and MSPs may struggle with this portion of the program if they do not have a trained up security department on hand or are not able to engage a Managed Security provider to augment their current IT team.
A good analogy for what the state is providing in this grant is to compare it to a trip to summit Mount Everest. The State of Florida instituted this grant to help provide safety climbing gear (not all the gear you might need) but this grant is NOT like hiring an Everest Climbing Team to guide you to the top. The grant does not provide the instruction, training, guides, ropes on the trail, or sherpas to safely navigate the mountain. They are providing safety equipment and a hospital and data to track the success of the climbers—the value is very real, just not everything you’ll need.
Sharing is Caring
Telemetry Data for the Entire State
By singing up for this program, each state agency or local government that is provided security tools will be providing important data to the security center where any active indications of compromise (IOC) or threat mitigations can be tracked, to see if certain vertical sectors or region of Florida are experiencing attacks. Alerts can then be issued and the Incident Response center can prepare.
“The goal is to collect telemetry data from every tool possible unless that tool has low utilization. So even tools not specifically purchased or funded by the state, could eventually be added to the network to provide additional active threat tracking.”
– Warren Sponholtz, Deputy Chief Information Security Officer at the Florida Digital Service
“Simply put, we’re stronger when we work together toward our common defense and the Local Government Cybersecurity Grant has the potential to put Florida in a posture that most states and the federal government would envy.”
– Pedro Allende, Department of Management Services Secretary –
Good luck and stay safe.