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Citing Attempted Hacks, Maine's Top IT Official Will Ask For More Funding

Maine’s chief technology officer says Maine came very close to having its computer systems penetrated by sophisticated hackers a few months ago.

Fred Brittain told the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee on Monday that a significant increase in spending is needed to protect state computer networks and the information they contain.

Brittain says that this October, the state and several municipalities were subject to a massive cyberattack. The hackers were trying to encrypt data on government computers and then planned to demand ransom payments in exchange for restoring access to that data.

He says Maine came very close to being hacked and disabled.

“We are one penetration away from government services being shut down,” he says, citing Louisiana, where the bureau of motor vehicles was shut down.

Brittain says the state employs several security systems and has personnel to protect its computers, but he says some hackers, including nation-states, are highly sophisticated and will try to breach a computer network hundreds of thousands of times a day.

Brittain says Maine spends less than 1.5% of the state budget on information technology, while the national average across all sectors is well more than double that — about 3.3%.

Brittain’s boss, Finance Commissioner Kirsten Figueroa, told committee members to expect a request for more IT funding in future budgets, but also pointed to a number of other unmet infrastructure needs.

“Our office buildings, out state parks, our dams, our armories are in a similar eroded position as our technology infrastructure,” she said.

Under committee questioning, Brittain estimated total technology spending by the state at about $160 million a year. He says other states that have experienced network shutdowns have had to spend millions of dollars per system to get them working again.