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CANTON — The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators unanimously passed a resolution Monday during the Operations Committee meeting authorizing an amended contract extending the terms for a cybersecurity grant and modifying the 2022 budget for the Board of Elections.
“The Board of Elections has been awarded a Cybersecurity Remediations Grant Program for expenses related to cybersecurity,” the resolution says.
It says that New York state has notified the BOE that it is extending the grant deadlines to Dec. 31, 2023, for grants with unexpended balances. The remaining funds for the grant are $79,049.
“These monies are elections focused,” said Richard M. Johnson, the county’s director of information technology. “They are meant to strengthen the security of elections.”
He said the money will in part be used to formalize a disaster recovery plan for the county’s cybersecurity infrastructure. This would include writing a plan of action in case the county’s data center were compromised or infected with ransomware.
Mr. Johnson said that, to the best of his knowledge, there are currently no cybersecurity threats against the county’s elections infrastructure, and that if it were to be compromised, he would know almost immediately.
“I am no more worried about elections infrastructure than any other department,” he said. “If something does happen, we would know right away, and that’s a big comfort to me.”
Still, he said it’s of “paramount importance that we do everything we can to make sure our elections are secure,” which is why he supports the grant funding to allow for preventative measures against potential cybersecurity threats.
“It is incumbent upon us as county officials to have infrastructure that works reliably and securely … it behooves us to make those safe, and this grant will allow for that,” he said.
Recently, the New York State Association of Counties released a cybersecurity primer document outlining how to identify cybersecurity threats and offering roadmaps to prepare for them.
It states, “Cybersecurity threats to our governments cannot be understated,” and that hackers are “sending emails to county employees … looking for ways into your databases,” and “want to disrupt your work, destroy your systems, exploit your data, and hold it ransom for payment.”
“I am proud of the work of our team and the assistance this can provide to counties who would like to improve their cybersecurity posture whether it is specific to the Board of Elections or any other department,” said County Administrator Ruth A. Doyle, who was part of advisory team that worked on creating the primer document.
“We have more work to do here in our county and this will remain a priority to ensure we are prepared for the threats we are aware of, and ensure resources are available to address the ones we have yet to see,” she said.
The resolution will move to the next full board meeting on March 7.