The secretary of the state Department of Administration said Thursday more than 100 executive branch officials would convene to concentrate attention on improving cybersecurity of state agencies to protect confidential information of Kansans.
DeAngela Burns-Wallace, who was appointed by Gov. Laura Kelly, said the administrative department submitted three-year information technology plans to a joint House and Senate committee for the first time in years. She also said lack of competitive IT salaries plagued state government in terms of hiring and retaining enough skilled computer personnel.
"If the work isn't happening behind the scenes, our functions and our structures are not. The information that we move and use and protect for citizens around the state isn't there," Burns-Wallace said.
She told the editorial advisory board of The Topeka Capital-Journal an Oct. 16 summit meeting would impress upon executive-level staff members in state government the scope of security threats posed to internet-connected systems, including hardware, software and data.
The Kansas Legislature began making overdue investments in upgrading the breadth of cybersecurity at Kansas agencies large and small, where massive amounts of confidential information have been stored. The Legislature's auditing division also conducted a series of security reviews, which haven't been publicly disclosed, that identified weaknesses to attack.
"The challenge in the security space is there's a reality that there's a ton of work that happens that you don't always hear about because it's the threats that you get in front of. So, they don't become public," Burns-Wallace said. "Are we where we want to be, like many other states? No. Are we at a very different place than we were three to five years ago? Yes."
The executive branch will require a greater infusion of tax dollars to continue modernizing essential computer systems, the secretary said.
In August, the governor named Burns-Wallace as the state's new chief information technology officer for the Kansas Office of Information Technology Services, or OITS.
Kelly said the state government’s computer systems were "vulnerable to both domestic and international security threats" and that Burns-Wallace would ensure that Kansans’ information was secure.
Burns-Wallace had previously assumed management control of the Department of Administration after a 15-year career in higher education, most recently serving as vice provost for undergraduate studies at the University of Kansas. She also worked for the University of Missouri and at the U.S. Department of State in China, South Africa and Washington, D.C.
In terms of the future of the Docking Building next to the Capitol, the secretary said the Clark Huesemann consulting firm in Lawrence had been working for several months to evaluate different scenarios that include full renovation, reducing the building in size, or demolishing it and rebuilding. The report with realistic cost estimates is expected to be presented to the 2020 Legislature in January, she said.
"What they're looking at is various options," she said. "What would it look like if it was a structure that the shell of it was there, but you cut a few floors off of it?"