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Friday, December 8th, 2023

Senate National Defense Authorization Act amendment would require state, federal cybersecurity coordinators

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Hoping to improve cybersecurity, four senators introduced an amendment to the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week that would require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to appoint cybersecurity coordinators in every state.

U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Gary Peters (D-MI) contributed to the amendment. In so doing, they sought to mirror the Cybersecurity State Coordinator Act introduced earlier this year. This legislation would require each state to host its own Cybersecurity State Coordinator, though that figure would be paid for and picked by the federal government.

“Cybersecurity for state and local governments is just as important as federal cybersecurity, and frequently, they lack the resources, technical know-how, and situational awareness to secure their systems, or respond in the event of an attack,” Portman said. “I’m glad to join my bipartisan colleagues in introducing an amendment to the NDAA that would create a Cybersecurity State Coordinator position to facilitate the cybersecurity relationship between the federal government and state and local governments.”

As implied, the coordinator would be a sort of go-between for local, state, and federal governments. They would work to prevent and respond to cybersecurity threats. Along the way, though, their role would also include work with schools, hospitals, and other entities.

“Cyberattacks can cause enormous disruption at any time, but they can be particularly devastating during a public health crisis,” Hassan said. “We’ve seen an increase in cyberattacks on hospital systems amid the pandemic, and in my state of New Hampshire, a county experienced an attack last year on their computer system, which includes the local nursing home. The federal government needs to do more to strengthen cybersecurity preparedness in communities across the country, and both of these bipartisan amendments would help do so.”

A single point of contact in each state would help ensure everyone was working on the same page in times of crisis, Cornyn added, and an important thing for a society as interconnected as the United States.

“Bad actors will always target the path of least resistance – which is why we must boost cyber-security at all levels of government,” Peters said.