State starts new unit to combat cyberattacks

Published 11:03 am Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The N.C. Department of Public Safety is partnering with the N.C. Department of Information Technology to combat the growing threat of cyberattacks. A new entity – housed in the State Bureau of Investigation’s N.C Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAAC) – will focus on promoting cyber awareness and information sharing and to provide actionable cyberintelligence to private and public sector partners and citizens.

The new cyber unit will be led by Thomas McGrath, who will work as part of the DPS Information Security Office. McGrath and his team will work with federal, state and local partners including the North Carolina National Guard, Department of Homeland Security, FBI, SBI, U.S. Secret Service, Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) and others to thwart cyberattacks. McGrath is a veteran of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who served as a Special Agent with the FBI National Computer Crime Squad at the FBI Washington Field Office before transferring to the Raleigh Resident Agency of the FBI’s Charlotte Division in 2000. Since then, he has worked on the Cyber Crime Squad and most recently was the FBI’s representative at the N.C. ISAAC Fusion Center. McGrath assumed his duties at DPS on March 19.

“This new unit is critical due to the growing number of threats launched against our cyber infrastructure in recent years,” said Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks. “We at DPS and the SBI are excited to be working with N.C. DIT and our other partners on this significant improvement in our cyber threat-management capability. Tom McGrath’s experience with counterterrorism and cybercrime investigations at the FBI goes back more than 20 years. That, plus his recent experience with the FBI at the N.C. Fusion Center, make him a perfect leader for this new team.”

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State officials say that recent ransomware attacks like the one in Mecklenburg County in December 2017 and a later one in Davidson County this February highlight the need for a more coordinated response to such threats.

“The state continues to face a growing threat from cyberattacks,” said N.C. Department of Information Technology Secretary Eric Boyette. “This effort will help us to better guard against cyber threats and to increase information sharing of threat vectors and cyber actor actions across multiple state entities and boundaries. It will also increase the speed of information sharing and help place needed focus on local government and citizen outreach. With the increased coordination and sharing of information will come an increase in the speed with which we can detect, identify and recover from cyber incidents.”

McGrath will be responsible for ensuring that relevant, actionable information and intelligence related to global, domestic and jurisdictional cyber threats is provided to public safety officials in a timely manner.

“This includes furthering the Fusion Center’s cyber goals and supervising analysts, managing outreach to partners and directing the collection and analysis of cyberthreat intelligence,” said Chief State Risk Officer Maria Thompson.

The N.C. ISAAC Fusion Center works with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in the fight against terrorism and criminal activity by sharing information.