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Saturday, February 27th, 2021

Senate advances bill promoting stronger cybersecurity coordination between DHS, state and local governments

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With the advancement of U.S. Sens. Gary Peters’ (D-MI) and Rob Portman’s (R-OH) State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act, the Senate has signaled encouragement to federal authorities to coordinate better with state and local governments.

“State and local governments with limited resources and cybersecurity expertise can struggle to secure their systems against malicious hackers that could expose their constituents’ personal data,” Peters said. “I’m pleased the Senate passed my bipartisan bill that will help ensure all levels of government can bolster their defenses and protect themselves from sophisticated cyber-attacks.”

The bill specifically calls for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to promote stronger cybersecurity cooperation through greater information sharing on cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities, and breaches. This cybersecurity act also calls for a greater sharing of resources between them to bolster efforts at prevention and recovery.

For state and local governments, this comes at an increasingly trying time, as they find themselves frequently targeted by high-profile cyber-attacks. The costs are adding up, both monetarily and in terms of privacy. Unlike their federal counterparts, they lack the funding flexibility to do much about it, though they have mounds of data on their citizens. Major cities like Atlanta and Baltimore have weathered attacks, but so too have states: Colorado’s Department of Transportation were attacked earlier this year, and so were multiple agencies within Louisiana as they waited on the results of a gubernatorial race.

Many of these assaults are ransomware attacks — digital strikes used to demand money from their victims. Lansing, Mich., suffered a similar attack in 2016, in which its Board of Water & Light had to pay $25,000 to regain access to its systems. That does not include the hundreds of thousands it had to pay out for a proper emergency response.

The State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act would permit local access to improved security tools, policies, and procedures, and encourage the collaboration of resources.