Kansas City, MO

June 22, 2024

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning.

It is great to be with you here in Kansas City, Missouri. I hail from across the border in the great state of Kansas, so I’m really pleased to be so close to home, as Kansans say, “there’s no place like home.”

Thank you to Mayor [Hillary] Schieve and Tom Cochrane for your leadership this week and throughout the year.  

I’m also pleased that so many of my White House colleagues are here today. Neera [Tanden], it is wonderful to see you and thank you for your thoughtful remarks and for your leadership.

It’s been a real pleasure to spend a couple days with the mayors of our great cities. My time here has been a reminder of the incredible responsibility you all shoulder on behalf of your citizens.

I also witnessed the impact a mayor can have two days ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma where Mayor G.T. Bynum has done a fantastic job. It was also an honor to be on the sacred grounds of the Greenwood District to celebrate Juneteenth.

As mayors, you all keep the trains running – literally, with increasingly complex transportation systems;

You keep the water running – managing utilities and their ability to function in the most challenging of circumstances;

You keep the public safe – managing police forces and a full criminal justice system;

You ensure your cities are prepared for any type of crisis – including keeping emergency communications services operational and resilient.

You run schools, libraries, and courts – all of which are finding new ways to operate in our increasingly digital world and all are keepers of tremendous amounts of sensitive personal data.

And you do it all while more and more city services are being conducted online with automated billing, 311 call centers, and up-to-the-moment digital communications with your citizens.

I know I don’t have to tell you that every one of these vital public services is more digital, more interconnected, and more complex than at any point in history.

And as America’s adversaries and globally-based cyber criminals are looking to cause harm, every one of these services – all critical infrastructure – are alluring targets- regardless of the size or location of your city.

But the good news is, you are not alone.

The White House Office of the National Cyber Director – or ONCD – is a component of the Executive Office of the President. We were created just over three years ago by Congress in recognition of the fact that there is a need to drive Federal coherence on cybersecurity policy and strategy.

We have exceptional mission partners across the Federal Government with expertise in both defending our networks and addressing cybersecurity risks. 

Our role at ONCD is to drive coordination so you – and the Nation and the global community – can best take advantage of that wealth of expertise. 

As the President’s advisor for cybersecurity strategy and policy, our team works with all levels of Government, international partners, non-profits, academia, and the private sector, to shape and coordinate Federal cybersecurity policy. 

We also coordinate a whole-of-Government approach to implement the President’s National Cybersecurity Strategy, which calls for shifting the cybersecurity responsibility away from those who can bear it the least to those who are best equipped to handle it.

Our cities, schools, and water systems are in the untenable position of being on the front line battling against foreign adversaries on a regular basis. That puts an incredible burden on you and your teams.

We believe, and the President’s National Cybersecurity Strategy sets out a path to ensure, that the responsibility to protect our most critical systems from cyber threats should fall to those most able to counter this malicious activity: namely the Federal Government and the large technology companies. They – I should say we – are better positioned to take on this responsibility.

In fact, we are making sure that more resources are available to cities to prepare for, protect against, and stay resilient in the face of constantly evolving cybersecurity threats.

A key program is the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program, enacted through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Administered by the Department of Homeland Security, this critical grant is providing $1 billion to address cybersecurity risks and threats to local Government-owned and operated information systems. 

There are also more tailored, and often lesser-known resources, across the Federal agencies. 

Take, for instance, protection for K-12 schools.

Ransomware attacks against schools – a devious practice where hackers lock students and teachers out of their systems and hold them ransom until they’re paid – doubled last year.

When schools, teachers, and students are deprived access to technology, education suffers and our nation suffers. When their personal data – everything from lessons plans to grades to home addresses to medical records – is held hostage, parents and the community are rightfully outraged. When IT systems are down, teachers may not get paid and school operations can be shut down.

Thankfully, there’s an easy-to-use resource that I’d encourage you all to implement – and best of all, it is free thanks to funding from the Biden-Harris Administration… The service is called Protective Domain Name Service – or PDNS – a wonky name, but a really helpful tool.

PDNS helps prevent ransomware and other cyberattacks by preventing computer systems from connecting to known harmful websites and other dangerous areas of the internet.

Unlike some other solutions in cybersecurity, PDNS does so without the user having to take any action. There are no complicated passwords to remember or menu options to configure once it is set up. It just works.

And, as I said, thanks to investments from the Biden-Harris Administration, it’s free for K-12 schools, local Governments like your own, and other public entities like libraries and universities.

It’s easy to sign up – you and the schools in your cities can do so by working with the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center – or MS-ISAC. We have a link to their services on our website: Whitehouse.gov/ONCD and click on the “protecting K-12 schools” page.

PDNS is just one of many tools available to you as you ensure that your cities are resilient against cyber threats.

Our office has compiled a list of resources from the Federal Government that we’re making available today and will post on our website.

Every day, we know that you are making hundreds of decisions as you run your cities. We encourage you to ensure that cybersecurity remains top of mind.

In cybersecurity, we know that your cities are under constant attack from malicious cyber actors. We are your partner. We know that there’s more work to do. And we can do it together.

Thank you.

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