State launches cyber security center

Tim Roemer, the state’s director of homeland security, explains Oct. 4, 2021, how the newly created cyber command center will help protect the security of computers at all levels of government. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Arizona launched its new cyber command center Monday to deal with threats to state and local government computers.

But the head of the state Department of Homeland Security, who will be running it, insists that Arizonans should not worry that the state will be using all that expensive high tech equipment to spy on them. In fact, Tim Roemer said that protecting the data on government computers actually will help protect individuals.

“They’re actually one in the same,” he told Capitol Media Services. That’s because Roemer said his agency is legally responsible for protecting the data that Arizonans are required to provide the state, such as tax information and driver’s license number.

“You name, them, we have them,” he said. “If I fail, if we fail, that information gets sold on the dark web or it gets sold to criminals, now they’re going to use that to target you in your personal life and your work life as well.”

Consider, Roemer said, getting an email or text that purports to be from the Motor Vehicle Division, which has the number of your driver’s license and says unless you “click here” it will expire. That, he said, would appear to be legitimate.

“And once you click on it, you can be completely compromised,” Roemer said.

“You may not know it right off the bat,” he continued. “But that’s how they use the data to then go after you personally and professionally.”

It’s his job, Roemer said, to stop that before it happens.

And there are multiple attempts.

“In September alone, our Department of Homeland Security has detected and alerted on almost 70 million cyber threats,” said Gov. Doug Ducey. “They’ve blocked over 800,000 attacks on state websites.”

Those kinds of threats, the governor said, resulted in the state spending $11 million last year to establish a new cyber security program. On top of that was another $3.5 million for what Ducey called “enhanced cyber security tools…