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Concord, Dracut, Wilmington recognized by state as Cyber Aware Communities

BOSTON — Three local towns were recognized this week by Gov. Charlie Baker and the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security as Cyber Aware Communities for their performance in this year’s Municipal Cybersecurity Awareness Grant Program.

Concord, Dracut and Wilmington are among 34 municipalities and public school districts given the honor.

“Buy-in and awareness on cybersecurity from an organization’s leadership team is critical to its success,” Baker said. “Congratulations to each of the municipalities and public schools that have earned recognition as a Cyber Aware Community for their leadership in better securing their organization from potential threats.”

The Municipal Cybersecurity Awareness Grant Program is managed by EOTSS’ Office of Municipal and School Technology and is supported by capital funding secured in a general governmental bond bill that was signed into law in August 2020 to invest in cybersecurity posture and IT infrastructure modernization initiatives in Massachusetts.

In the first two years of the program, 62,000 municipal and public school employees have enrolled, gaining access to critical end-user training, evaluations and threat simulations. Results have shown that participants receiving the cybersecurity awareness training on average saw a six-point improvement on the final assessment of the training course.

“Threats posed by cyber-attacks are so great today that cybersecurity can no longer be viewed as a problem for the IT department alone,” said Secretary of Technology Services and Security Curt Wood. “The municipalities and public schools being recognized today are stepping up to ensure that every member … is properly trained to identify and avoid attempts by malicious actors to gain access to critical systems and data.”

Cyberattacks on municipal government and education systems are on the rise nationwide as cyber criminals are using common threat actions such as phishing, smishing, hacking and ransomware attacks to gain access to an organization’s IT networks and sensitive data, and recent high profile ransomware attacks and hacks have disrupted operations in both the public and private sector.

“Over the past year, cities and towns across the commonwealth have been impacted by ransomware attacks, and unfortunately this problem is not going to go away,” said state Sen. Barry Finegold, D- Andover, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Advanced Information Technology, the Internet and Cybersecurity. “We need to get ahead of the curve and empower our municipalities to strengthen their cyber preparedness and resilience. Initiatives like the Municipal Cybersecurity Awareness Grant Program are crucial first steps.”

— Trea Lavery

Police co-response program secures funding for crisis response dog

BILLERICA — The Front Line Initiative, a regional police mental health collaborative consisting of the police departments of Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Tewksbury and Tyngsboro, has secured funding to launch an Animal Assisted Co-Response program later this year.

The program, which will be funded by the Greater Lowell Health Alliance will pair a mental health co-response clinician with a trained crisis response dog that can be called out by the five police departments. The program will focus on behavioral health crises with a focus on those struggling with traumatic events, depression and impacts of suicide.

“We are extremely excited to bring this additional therapeutic service to the communities we serve,” said Front Line Executive Director Matthew Page-Shelton. “The addition of the AACoR program will assist in bridging the gap of access to emergency services for those living through traumatic events. We believe in bringing innovative programming to the Greater Lowell area and we are pleased to be pioneering the way with the help of the Greater Lowell Health Alliance.”

The future therapy dog will be an Australian Labradoodle from Highland Beach Labradoodle of Rhode Island, and will be trained by Auntie Dog in Tewksbury. The dog is expected to join the team in training in late November or early December.

— Trea Lavery



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