What was science fiction a few decades ago is really not that far away.

The world has become more connected thanks to technology, and with that connection comes an increased risk of cyber threats.

The North Dakota state network received more than 2.1 billion cyberattacks in 2020, according to legislative testimony earlier this year. These numbers have increased dramatically in recent years and are expected to continue to climb. Nationally, the FBI director told Congress that the volume of ransomware payments has tripled in the past year.

Investing in security is expensive, but so is it. IBM has estimated the average cost of a data breach to be around $ 4 million worldwide. For small businesses, the costs can still reach tens of thousands of dollars. Insuring against damage is also expensive. Cyberinsurance premiums increased an average of 25% in the second quarter of 2021.

Threats are not limited to particular sectors. Healthcare providers in the region have been targeted and businesses facing supply chain issues have also been exposed to attacks. Energy networks and food vendors were also victims of ransomware this year.

More people have used an Internet connection in the past year and a half than ever before. Trends in online education and employment have accelerated. More and more developing countries are accessing the Internet. The World Bank has forecast that total annual internet traffic will increase by 50% from 2020 to 2022.

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The underlying technology is also improving. We now have access to smartwatches, smart doorbells, just about anything. But with the added convenience comes additional risk. End users are the most common targets of cyber attacks.

The state of North Dakota has been proactive in its approach to cybersecurity. The legislator has invested a lot in it in recent years. As of 2019, the North Dakota Department of Information Technology has been responsible for the cybersecurity of state public entities, helping to consolidate resources and coordinate processes. State Chief Information Officer Shawn Riley said the total network reflects the size of a Fortune 30 company.

Education is also an important part of boosting cybersecurity efforts. Like many highly skilled occupations, there are training and labor shortages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that openings for information security analysts will increase by 33% by 2030, or four times the average occupancy rate. And these are jobs with a median salary of more than six figures.

Our state and local institutions have done their part to meet the training needs. Several higher education institutions in the state have study programs dedicated to cybersecurity. The K-12 system includes programs designed to encourage interest in the field and broaden awareness of various cyber threats.

The way we approach education in training must be agile and forward-looking. Technical skills need to be constantly updated to stay relevant. Educators and businesses are right to promote a lifelong learning attitude. Introducing it into formal education cannot go further.

The development of new technologies has the ability to dramatically improve life. Security against cyber threats will be a crucial part of this progress.

After moving away for a few years to work on Capitol Hill and study economics at the University of North Dakota, Sean Cleary now lives with his wife in his hometown of Bismarck.


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