State faces millions of cyber attacks per day, department head says

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SALT LAKE CITY — The state of Utah's secure government networks face an alarming number of cyber attacks.

These attacks happen daily, are continuing to grow in number and have spiked in recent years.

Two years ago, the average number of cyber attacks was approximately one million malicious attacks per day. Now, the attacks are up to 20 million per day, according to Mark VanOrden, Utah's chief information officer and executive director of the Utah Department of Technology Services.

"Every indication is that it will continue to accelerate," he said. "If you saw the news over the weekend of the attacks from other countries, we're seeing this too. So, it is accelerating and I don't know what we can do to stop the acceleration."


VanOrden said the attacks on Utah's secure networks are coming from computerized robotic systems, not 20 million individual people. The members of his security team are constantly tracing the IP addresses the attacks come from and then blocking them.

"We have two people on site seven days a week, 24 hours a day, monitoring all the incoming and outgoing traffic, monitoring our network. Overall, we have a staff of 18 in the Department of Technology Services, in our security division," he explained.

VanOrden said the attackers can be foreign governments, criminals or even anarchists. The attacks on the networks are getting more creative, therefore his team needs creativity in tracking them. He is asking lawmakers for more funding to beef up his security staff.

Tips for Online Protection
  • Use only secure websites when giving out information, particularly for online shopping
  • Use strong passwords
  • Monitor your personal accounts frequently

"We need to be better prepared to stop the acceleration," he said.

He said Utahns need to be vigilant in protecting their information.

"I think that everybody should be careful in how they use their data," he said. "I don't think people should lose sleep over this because we're doing everything we possibly can to protect their data, but we are certainly not perfect."

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Shara Park and Dave Cawley


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