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Researchers Help Bolster Virginia Cybersecurity Efforts
February 7, 2018

Virginia counties figure to be at the front lines in the battle for cybersecurity, so George Mason University’s J.P. Auffret and Angelos Stavrou are helping them formulate a more cohesive defense with a grant that partners them with local governments.

Auffret, the associate director of the Center for Assurance Research and Engineering (CARE) within Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering, and director of research partnerships in the School of Business, serves as the principal investigator for the Mason National Science Foundation Cybersecurity City and County Cross Jurisdictional Collaboration Project. Stavrou, director of CARE and professor of computer science, is the project’s co-principal investigator. Their endeavor combines the talents and resources of the state’s jurisdictions to foster key city and county cybersecurity partnerships and to address the institutional barrier that limit those partnerships.

“Those that are aware of the risk and the need for cybersecurity, they see the potential,” Auffret said. “And many local governments—both at the administration and board levels—are becoming more aware of the challenges.”

According to the Council of State Governments, approximately 60 percent of all U.S. counties list fewer than 50,000 residents, but “nearly all counties play a role in the nation’s critical infrastructure.”

Counties account for 45 percent of the nation’s road miles, 40 percent of the bridges and the operation of 30 percent of public airports, 1,550 health departments, and 3,105 police and sheriff’s departments, as well as utility services, such as water and electricity, according to the National Association of Counties.

The voluntary program, which is the result of an NSF grant of $299,000, encourages large, medium-sized and small cities and counties to share staffing, cybersecurity services such as security information and event management policies, training and key information about the best practices on cybersecurity governance and partnering. The project kicked off with a workshop held in Richmond in October 2017, with participants from local governments across Virginia devising a set of commonwealth recommendations. Plans for the spring include smaller regional workshops, including with Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula local governments.

Mason serves as the project’s organizer, overseeing all the project’s details in conjunction with a number of local, state and federal officials.

This article reprinted from materials provided by George Mason University.

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