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Puerto Rico Cyber Force aims to boost security, protect citizen data

The executive director of the Puerto Rico Innovation and Technology Service (Prits), Nannette Martínez, announced a new effort aimed at increasing measures to prevent and mitigate cyberattacks. The initiative involves an alliance between the local government, federal authorities and nonprofit organizations to protect citizens’ data as well as the “organizations that hold this information.”

The head of the agency tasked with improving government services through its digital transformation, said the alliance, dubbed the Puerto Rico Cyber Force, is composed of staff from Prits, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety (DSP), the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), and the nonprofit organization Obsidis Consortia.

The group will conduct cybersecurity training sessions and exercises to explore and mitigate vulnerabilities in information systems, provide support and advice on cybersecurity, and bring cybersecurity awareness messages to the public. 

The focus of the collaboration is the prevention of cyberattacks, the development of a support plan for incident response, and maintaining a constant exchange of information. 

“The Puerto Rico Cyber Force is an effort that seeks to train and engage citizens on a voluntary basis in matters related to cybersecurity,” Martínez said. “Participants will have the opportunity to collaborate with both state and federal security entities in the prevention, exchange of information, response, and recovery of attacks to increase resilience and decrease vulnerabilities in Puerto Rico’s government systems.”

FBI Agent in Charge Joseph González said the initiative is an example of how much can be accomplished when working as a team. 

“The FBI’s cyber mission is to impose risk and consequences on cybercriminals, through our unique combination of authorities, capabilities and collaborative relationships such as this one,” González said. “That mission begins with timely and consistent information sharing, which is the primary purpose of the Puerto Rico Cyber Force.”

CISA representative Nigay Oliveras stated that the agency is completely committed to Prits’ initiative. 

“We will provide them with all the support they need, both in the process of training citizens and in any incident prevention initiative, both in government and the private sector,” Oliveras assured. “Cybersecurity must be addressed holistically and in collaboration with citizens.”

Martínez explained that others who may be “interested can join the Puerto Rico Cyber Force through Obsidis Consortia, a nonprofit organization that seeks to develop information technology professionals, students and enthusiasts in information security and privacy promotion.”

To join the Puerto Rico Cyber Force or report vulnerabilities or malicious activity, visit the Puerto Rico Cyber Force website.

The nonprofit’s José Arroyo stated that “it is imperative to join forces to combat the cybersecurity problem. Obsidis Consortia understands that a united community is stronger than individual efforts. The Puerto Rico Cyber Force is the beginning of a movement to strengthen the capacity to address the constant cybersecurity threat in Puerto Rico, establishing strong roots of understanding on a topic that is constantly evolving.”

Public Safety Secretary Alexis Torres highlighted that “the Department of Public Safety is committed to receiving and working on reported incidents with Prits, and coordinating the participation of personnel in the cybersecurity training received at the Puerto Rico Fusion Center,” or National Security State Information Center. 

Government websites revamped

Prits’ Martínez also presented a revamp of PR.gov, which consolidates all the digital services provided by the island’s central government. 

“At Prits, we continue to improve the resources and services that the government of Puerto Rico provides through technology,” Martínez said. “Promoting accessibility and agility mechanisms that save time for citizens is one of the mandates that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi has delegated to us, and our priority is to lead the government’s digital transformation through innovation, technology, and a collaborative approach.”

PR.gov offers information on public policies, government programs, and application processes, among other topics. The website provides direct access to criminal background checks, unemployment insurance, birth certificates, the AutoExpreso toll collection system, and utility bills, among various services.

Additionally, the website features notices from government entities, the Central Calls Registry, access to the Turnospr.com appointment system, and confidential helplines for assistance in emergencies.

Martínez pointed out that, to standardize interagency systems and procedures through the new government website design, Prits has republished websites for the Office of the Inspector General, the Cooperatives Supervision & Insurance Corp. (Cossec, in Spanish), the Automobile Accidents Compensation Administration (ACAA, in Spanish), the Citizens’ Advocate Office (Ombudsman), the Patient’s Advocate Office, the Council for the Aerospace and Aeronautical Industry of Puerto Rico, and the Department of State.

Author Details
Author Details
Maria Miranda is an investigative reporter and editor with 20 years of experience in Puerto Rico’s English-language newspapers. In that capacity, she has worked on long-term projects and has covered breaking news under strict deadlines. She is proficient at mining data from public databases and interviewing people (both public figures and private sector individuals). She is also a translator, and has edited and translated an economy book on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. She worked as an interpreter for FEMA during the recent recovery efforts of Hurricane María and earned her FEMA badge.

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