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New York State Senate committee chairmen have cybersecurity hearing in Rome

(WKTV) - New York State Senate committee hearings are usually  in Albany, or at least somewhere near there, but on Monday, Sen. Joe Griffo of Rome hosted a hearing on cybersecurity in his hometown, at the Griffiss Institute in Rome, home of New York State Cyber Research Institute.

Griffo says it was the perfect venue to hear from cybersecurity experts not only from Rome and Utica, but from all over New York State.

"Sometimes you'll see hearings held at various locations, but it's uncommon," he said.  "Most of them would be held in the city or in the capitol in Albany, but I thought this was very important because Griffiss is a former Department of Defense installation that still has defense agencies on site, and there's some critical research being done here."

Griffo, who is the chairman of the Senate Banks Committee, was joined by Chairman of Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, Greg Ball from Putnam County, Chairman of Insurance, Sen. James Seward from Onoenta, Chairman of Commerce, Economic Development & Small Business, Sen. David Valesky of Oneida, Chairman of Crime Victims, Crime & Correction, Sen. Patrick Gallivan from Erie County and Chairman of Science, Technology, Incubation and Entrepreneurship, Sen. Martin Golden of Brooklyn.

Gallivan says he was glad to visit our area, but he says wherever this hearing were to be held, it's an important one.

"What's exciting about today is the bringing together of so many different committees," Gallivan said, "and so many different experts, whether its law enforcement, local, state, and national people to see what we can collectively do to try and stay ahead of the curve."

Among those testifying at the hearing included New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico, New York State Homeland Security Commissioner Jerome Hauer and New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky.

Lawsky told the panel that cybersecurity is a very important topic for everyone in New York State, mainly because Wall Street is in our state, as well as the many major financial institutions in New York City.

"Major New York City-based institutions already have been targeted, to be frank. Within the past year alone, American Express, JP Morgan, the New York Times, CitiGroup among others were struck in well-publicized cyber attacks."

Homeland Security Commissioner Jerome Hauer says fighting cyber crime is a job that never ends.

"Cybercrimes are very insidious," he said. "It's an evolving threat. It's one that continues to morph into different things.  Whenever you develop a mechanism to protect people, the bad guys are always looking for ways to get around it.  So we're trying to be as aggressive as possible, but it's a very, very evolving type of threat that changes minute to minute."

State Police Superintendent D'Amico says cyber crimes run the gamut around the state.

"We see a lot on the consumer end," said D'Amico. "We see a lot of individuals reporting to us, whether it's compromising their passwords, cyberbullying, people getting into their social networking accounts, you see that at the lower level.  We also see credit card frauds."

As far as how larger institutions are targeted, D'Amico said, "I can't talk about individual cases, but basically groupings of areas where we're concerned, things like energy, things like finance, medical transportation.  Some of the bigger areas, we're always worried about that threat of somebody getting in."

D'Amico says it's important for all state local and federal agencies to work together, and his agency is doing that in Albany.

"We have partners with 21 agencies in the State Intel Center, all of the federal agencies, including the FBI, Homeland Security and Secret Service.'

Sen. Ball of Putnam County told those in attendance that cyber criminals aren't limited to individuals, or groups, but even other governments as well.

"We have had state-assisted attempts by foreign governments to not only bring this state and this country to its knees using cyber attacks, but actually stealing trade secrets and using that as a competitive advantage in other parts of the world."

Griffo says after hearing what's happened and what's being done to prevent future cyber attacks, the goal of the senators in attendance is to now take the next step in the prevention of what could be a real non-natural disaster,.

"You could see utilities, the grid system all be brought down," he said. "You could see financial institutions unravel, and people's livelihoods at stake.  As well as each day the Department of Defense is engaging in warfare that we're not even aware of. It's computer warfare right now."

Griffo says this panel of senators will take all that it heard on Monday, along with even more input in the near future and possibly draft some legislation to help keep our state safe from this type of warfare.

"It's very important that we continue to focus on cybersecurity from various segments, from a homeland security perspective, from a financial security perspective and from fighting crime."

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