Gov. Ron DeSantis approved more than $37 million in the state budget on Wednesday to fortify Florida’s defenses against cybersecurity threats.
According to the Governor’s Office, the money will be used to enhance cybersecurity at various state agencies and protect Floridians from “cyber threats that can compromise critical state resources and sensitive information.”
The new funding comes as private and public entities work to prevent infamous cybersecurity breaches such as the ones that stunned Twitter in 2020 and the shutdown of a major fuel pipeline in May, creating a panic that led to fuel shortages in North Florida and elsewhere.
Notably, Florida has had its fair share of cybersecurity mishaps in recent years.
In October 2020, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) fell victim to “malicious activity” orchestrated against the department’s data and systems.
The attack, which didn’t compromise anyone’s personal data, created temporary outages and left the department operating at a limited capacity for several weeks.
In November 2020, a hacker sent text messages through a custom-made communications application for the Division of Emergency Management reserved for emergencies only.
The first message, originally reported by the Tampa Bay Times, urged recipients to “speak up before another 17,000 people are dead,” referring to the state’s COVID-19 death toll at the time.
“You know this is wrong,” the message added. “You don’t have to be a part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”
In all, DOH estimates that 1,750 messages were sent before software vendors with ReadyOp, who designed the system, could cancel the distribution.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement later served a warrant at the home of Rebekah Jones in connection to the hack.
Jones is a former Department of Health data curator who made national headlines after being fired from the department for insubordination. She has denied any involvement with the hack.
The new budget takes effect July 1.