Senate Presses BIT Nominee on Cyber Security

Sen. Janelle Sarauw questions BIT Director nominee Rupert Ross on cyber security. (Submitted photo)
Sen. Janelle Sarauw questions BIT Director nominee Rupert Ross on cyber security. (Submitted photo)

Rupert Ross, the director nominee for the Bureau of Information Technology, was before the V.I. Senate Finance Committee on Monday to defend his bureau’s 2020 budget request, but the discussion quickly shifted to cyber security.

“I would like that (cyber security) to be one of your priorities,” Sen. Janelle Sarauw told Ross.

Sarauw said the V.I. Police Department computer system was attacked by ransomware, and because of that the department was having difficulty issuing gun permits.

Ross said he was not aware of the particulars concerning the police department case but said when a system is attacked by a ransomware, there were only three options – completely restore the system and lose all entered data, pay the ransom, or restore with backup data. He said he did not know whether all government agencies were backing up their data regularly.

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Sen. Marvin Blyden mentioned recent cyber attacks in the states, calling cyber security a “serious issue,” and asked what Ross’s bureau was doing about it.

Ross said the Virgin Islands was partnering with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to put some protective measures in place. He also said government workers were being trained to notice when “something did not look right on their computers and what to do when it did not look right.”

As for its budget, Ross said the bureau’s budget request for 2020 was $7.9 million, a nine percent reduction from 2019.

The bureau is requesting a 20 percent increase in personnel funding. The request would allow the bureau to fund 26 positions. This includes the addition of eight positions as well as filling all the bureau’s vacancies.