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Florida Bolsters Cyber Defenses With Recently Awarded Federal Grant

The city of Sanibel and Lee County are set to participate in the Local Government Cybersecurity Grant Program, a $30 million initiative aimed at empowering local governments with cybersecurity solutions.

Illustration of a computer circuit board with a closed lock in the middle.
Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez recently announced efforts to amplify current digital security tools to help preserve resident data and the digital identities of its citizens, even amid natural disasters.

The city of Sanibel and Lee County in Florida are set to participate in the Local Government Cybersecurity Grant Program, a $30 million initiative aimed at empowering 194 local governments with applicable, comprehensive solutions to bolster their cybersecurity capabilities and integrate their technology with state-level cybersecurity protection programs.

“When natural disasters strike, it is critical that local governments focus their efforts on response and recovery,” Nuñez said in a recent press release. “I’m proud to champion this unprecedented investment in cybersecurity at the local level and ensure that partners like the city of Sanibel and Lee County Property Appraiser’s Office can assist residents in knowing their networks and data are protected.”

Sanibel Mayor Richard Johnson commended the state's strategies for safeguarding resident and employee data amidst environmental crises in the city.

“Southwest Florida is extremely grateful for Gov. [Ron] DeSantis’ and Lieutenant Governor Nuñez’s continued commitment to our recovery from Hurricane Ian,” Johnson said. “Awarding this grant and visiting our city furthers our resilience and reminds us that they are still working hard for our area.”

Lee County, the second Florida award recipient, is no stranger to cyber attacks, notwithstanding those tied to natural disasters. In 2019, the county's digital infrastructure, including its website, suffered a disruption when hackers infiltrated its servers in an attempt to extort funds from the county. At the time, some officials believed it could have been a ransomware attack.

Regardless, Florida officials hope to prevent future data breaches by enhancing its current digital infrastructure tools and using the cyber grant program funding to create more.

“The Local Government Cybersecurity Grant Program operationalizes key elements of sound cybersecurity policy: proactive coordination, information sharing, and breaking down silos to detect and respond to threats early,” Florida Department of Management Services Secretary Pedro Allende said in the press release. “From small towns to the largest state agencies, Florida’s security posture is stronger than ever, and I look forward to building on that success in this year’s grant program.”

The grant is funded through the federal State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program (SLCGP), which the White House enacted roughly two years ago. As part of the dispersal, recipients have had to establish cybersecurity planning committees and submit spending plans.

To date, federal officials say they have received 30 plans, with 28 earning approval with more under review.

*This article first appeared in Government Technology, a sister publication of  Industry Insider — Florida.