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Florida lags in cybersecurity preparedness, excels in education

In this 2016 file photo, Scott Charney, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group, delivers the afternoon keynote address during the Florida Center for Cybersecurity's third annual conference in the Tampa Convention Center. The center has released its latest report on the state of cybersecurity in Florida. [ANDRES LEIVA | Times, 2016]
Published Feb. 13, 2018

TAMPA — Despite the state Legislature's hopes, Florida isn't the "cyber" state just yet.

A newly-released survey of industry professionals about the state's digital security landscape found that while the Sunshine State lags other states in overall cybersecurity preparedness, it's slowly improving as well as excelling when it comes to educational programs.

"We believe there is a much-needed shift taking place with organizations that traditionally may have been reactive when it comes to cybersecurity now becoming proactive," Sri Sridharan, director of the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, said in a release.

Related coverage: Florida push to become bigger player in cybersecurity comes amid tough competition

The survey, conducted by the Florida Center for Cybersecurity and Gartner Inc. in early last year, polled 380 security professionals in Florida about their companies' security in 2016. It found that companies in Florida are reporting data breaches at higher rates than previous years. Breach reports jumped about 18 percent from 67 in 2015 to 77 in 2016.

Among the most severe breaches in the state was a University of Central Florida incident. Someone accessed the social security numbers and names of 63,000 current and previous students in early 2016.

Here are some of the report's takeaways:

• Florida companies are behind in cybersecurity preparedness "due to a period of insufficient investment in security capabilities and resources," the report said. "Continued cybersecurity investment will be needed to remain in alignment and keep pace with digital business and technological evolution."

• Most of the state's data breaches in 2016 happened because of human error.

About 48 percent of small and medium companies surveyed said that most of the data breaches they experienced in 2016 were caused by a "negligent employee or contractor." Another 41 percent said a third-party mistake was responsible for the breach.

• Florida excels in its applied research for cybersecurity.

Florida schools in the state university system, the report said, have been awarded $12.2 million from the National Science Foundation for 45 cybersecurity research initiatives since 2015. Seven schools in the state have also established cybersecurity applied research centers.

• Florida ranks No. 3 in the nation for cyber crime incidents, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

"The state's positive economic outlook and abundance of data-driven systems make it an attractive target for cybercrime," the report said.

Contact this reporter at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.

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