The Senate advanced Wednesday legislation by U.S. Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-Oh), promoting stronger cybersecurity coordination between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and state and local governments.
Peters and Portman, the chair and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, authored the State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act to encourage federal cybersecurity experts to share information surrounding cyberthreats, vulnerabilities, and breaches with state and local government officials, as well as share resources to prevent and recover from cyber-attacks.
“Cybercriminals continue attacking state, local, tribal, and territorial government networks. The federal government needs to step in and take action to help these local communities – which often lack the resources to defend themselves – to quickly identify threats and seal up vulnerabilities in their information technology systems,” Peters said. “This bipartisan legislation will help local governments provide critical services to residents even in the event of a cyber-attack, and I’ll continue to fight for its swift passage into law.”
According to the Senators’ offices, state and local governments increasingly find themselves the targets of cyberattacks, resulting in millions in taxpayers dollars lost and private data for millions of Americans compromised. For example, a May cyberattack in the city of Tulsa exposed residents’ Social Security numbers, while an attack last year in Knoxville resulted in government officials paying hackers to unlock the city’s computer systems.
“As we’ve seen from the many recent cyberattacks, hackers with malicious intent can and do attack state and local cyberinfrastructure consistently. Sometimes, state and local governments need some additional help or access to expertise to address these threats,” Portman said. “That’s why I’m pleased the Senate passed this bipartisan bill to strengthen an existing relationship between the Department of Homeland Security and state and local partners to improve coordination and information sharing to help protect our IT infrastructure at all levels of government.”
Peters and Portman’s legislation permits the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) to give state and local government officials access to improved security tools, policies, and procedures while encouraging collaboration for their effective implementation. Additionally, the legislation builds on previous efforts to prevent, protect and respond to future cybersecurity incidents.