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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) yesterday said it opened the application process for a new grant program to help tribes shore up their defenses against cyber-attacks.  

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The new Tribal Cybersecurity Grant Program provides $18.2 million in funding to help Tribal Nations address cybersecurity risks and threats.

Eligible applicants can apply for a grant to fund new or existing cybersecurity programs. The grant can be used for a variety of activities, including establishing critical governance frameworks, identifying key vulnerabilities, implementing mitigation measures, and developing a 21st-century cyber workforce.

With the release of a Notice of Funding Opportunity, applicants have 105 days to apply for a grant, which can be used to fund new or existing cybersecurity programs.

The grant program comes amid growing cybersecurity breaches, including ransomware attacks, that have wreaked havoc on tribal governments and enterprises, shutting down businesses and destroying sensitive archives, per prior Tribal Business News reporting

As a result, tribes have been left to grapple with the new cybersecurity measures necessary to combat the threats from ransomware, in which hackers capture data and hold it behind encryption to demand a fee for its release.

The TCGP was established by the State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act, which is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The program was developed in consultation with Tribal Nations to ensure that it meets their unique needs and challenges.

“I am proud to have worked hand-in-hand with Tribal Nations to tailor this grant program to better meet the vast cybersecurity needs across Indian Country,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said in a statement, calling the grant program an accomplishment that aligns with FEMA’s National Tribal Strategy and mission of preparing tribal communities for all threats. 

“We know that Tribes face unique cybersecurity challenges and often lack the resources needed to address them,” CISA Director Jen Easterly said in a statement. “The Tribal Cybersecurity Grant Program will play a critical role in helping Tribal governments build their capability and capacity to protect their communities from cybersecurity threats.”