Texas looks to stand up cybersecurity information sharing group

The Lone Star State is getting more connected when it comes to cybersecurity.

Todd Kimbriel, the state’s chief information officer, says in a video interview with StateScoop that Texas is working on the development of an information sharing organization to coordinate cybersecurity activities across government, K-12 schools, higher education, small businesses and the private sector.

“We’re putting together a business plan to actually implement this organization,” Kimbriel says. “It’s modeled after MS-ISAC, so that we’ll have an information sharing analysis function, but serving completely within Texas.”

The organization will include several “centers of excellence,” Kimbriel says, including threat detection, threat dissemination and tight partnerships with education — including curriculum programs in place in K-12 and higher education institutions.

“We can take what’s been done in certain school districts who have been very passionate and aggressive about injecting cybersecurity training in elementary and middle schools and then leading that up into high school programs,” Kimbriel says.

One of those partnerships will almost certainly be with several universities in the San Antonio that were certified as Centers of Excellence by the National Security Agency. Several high schools in the state, including Alamo Academies ITSA, Holmes High School, Southwest High School an dRoosevelt High School all teach “significant curriculum in IT and cyber,” Kimbriel said in an email to StateScoop. The state looks forward to expanding cyber efforts at the university level, as well as at other middle and high schools. These programs will help the state and the private sector recruit cybersecurity-focused personnel, Kimbriel says.

“They’ve really made some great strides, so we want to take those experiences and put those into sort of a digital playbook and bring those to all the other communities in Texas,” Kimbriel says. “[We want to] encourage adoption of those same best practices to try and get more cybersecurity awareness, more training, beginning at elementary school with the specific intent to address the negative unemployment that exists today in the workforce.”

Rcruitment efforts and education programs through universities and K-12 schools are all part of the larger information sharing and cybersecurity initiative underway in the state, Kimbriel says.

“We’re committed to standing up this organization and offering these services,” Kimbriel says. “And, really, primarily trying to address that workforce issue — everybody needs a cybersecurity trained professional. We need to have more of them.”

At the state government level, Texas has a cybersecurity coordinator who is responsible for providing a comprehensive security strategy for everybody in the state, as well as a state chief information security officer responsible for protecting the state through policy, education, awareness and incident response.

Editor’s Note: In Kimbriel’s interview with StateScoop, he referred to San Antonio high schools receiving certifications from the National Security Agency. The certifications actually belong to five universities in the San Antonio area. High schools in San Antonio have, however, adopted significant IT and cybersecurity curriculum. This story was updated October 19 with this information.