Posted: Jan 4, 2019

Tony Aukland’s title may be “Information Systems Security Analyst,” but it could also be “Chief Advocate” for the state’s cybersecurity mission.

In November, Aukland joined fellow Analyst Darin Hanson at the 2018 National Fusion Center Association annual conference in Alexandria, VA. The conference is an annual gathering of more than 700 participants including fusion center employees, local, state and federal partners, who share innovative ideas and business practices to enhance fusion center capabilities and contributions to public safety. The conference agenda covers public safety, domestic and global terrorism, cybersecurity and more.  Aukland, with fellow members of the Cyber Intelligence Network, met with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Aukland shared updates on efforts by the ND Information Technology Department, ND State and Local Intelligence Center and Cyber Intelligence Network to protect our state and citizens from cyber-attacks.

The mission of the North Dakota State and Local Intelligence Center (NDSLIC) is to gather, store, analyze and disseminate information on crimes, both real and suspected, to the law enforcement community, government officials and private industry concerning dangerous drugs, fraud, organized crime, terrorism and other criminal activity for the purposes of decision making, public safety and proactive law enforcement while ensuring the rights and privacy of citizens.

Gov. Doug Burgum refers to Information Technology and cybersecurity as “21st century critical infrastructure.” His proposed budget calls for aligning 146 IT professionals from across 17 Cabinet agencies, and 315 legacy ITD staff, into a unified IT Shared Service organization. It also calls for investing $16.4 million in cybersecurity, which includes 17 FTE and software and automation solutions to enhance the state’s cybersecurity posture.

In addition to frequent participation in regional and national events, he also puts his cyber skills to good use locally. Thanks to partnerships with Palo Alto Networks and Girl Scouts focused on strengthening STEM education, starting in fall 2018 a series of 18 cybersecurity badges was introduced for girls in K-12. In recent months, Aukland helped lead 25 girls in four different troops through the Brownie cybersecurity basics levels 1, 2 and 3. Over a series of Saturdays, Aukland worked with Bismarck Troops 83042, 83048, 83049 and 83056 to provide practical, age-appropriate information about the dangers of  sharing information online, ‘digital germs,’ and general precautions to help them be ‘cyber savvy.’  Aukland is a cubmaster in Bismarck, where he also lends his skills to teaching cybersecurity to his son’s cub scout pack, Pioneer PTO Pack 4001.

“Helping teach our kids from an early age about how to protect themselves online is something we can all do as parents,” said Aukland. “In the digital age, having regular conversations about online safety – whether from cyber bullying, to creating strong passwords, to not sharing personal information online – is imperative. These skills are critical no matter what career field you go into and ultimately are helping prepare these Scouts to be better leaders and savvy digital citizens.”

ITD is one of 40 partners working collaboratively to help advance computer science and cybersecurity education and training in North Dakota. This initiative, code-named “K-20W” to reflect kindergarten through PhD and workforce, includes development of computer and cyber science standards by the Department of Public Instruction for K-12, which will be the first in the nation to emphasize cybersecurity as a main component. North Dakota also was in the spotlight last month as the first state thought to hold a simultaneous, statewide Hour of Code. More than 5,000 students from kindergarten to college participated.

“We recognize that to compete locally – and globally – we need to create a technology literate workforce that can compete and succeed in the 21st century economy,” said CIO Shawn Riley. “The outreach that Tony is doing is a tremendous example of the positive impact that we can make as individuals, IT professionals and collectively as we Work as One to help our state and our students succeed.”

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Photo captions: (1 and 2) Tony participates in the National Fusion Center Association annual conference in Alexandria, VA. (3) Tony engages with Girl Scout troops in Bismarck on the importance of strong cybersecurity practices at home and school.