House bill would get DHS to help states fight hackers

House bill would get DHS to help states fight hackers
© Getty Images

A Texas Republican is trying to get state and local governments the federal tools they sorely need to fight cyber crime.

“State and local governments often do not have access to adequate personnel or technical cybersecurity resources,” said Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), who introduced a new bill known as the State and Local Cyber Protection Act.

ADVERTISEMENT

The bill would direct the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) cyber hub — known as the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) — to provide state and local governments the technical know-how and strategies they need to bolster their cyber defenses.

The NCCIC is the repository for all things cyber at the federal level. It collects information on hacking threats from across the government, as well as from the private sector. The center also employs a cyber emergency response team that works to mitigate fallout from digital intrusions.

“This is more than just about protecting the private information of individuals who work for local government agencies,” said Hurd, a former cyber-focused undercover CIA officer who now chairs the Subcommittee on Information Technology of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Frankly, cyber breaches at any level can put our national security at risk.”

Hurd’s office noted that local mayors and state-level cybersecurity officials are behind his bill.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) wrote a letter of support, arguing the measure “will assist CIOs in bolstering their state’s cybersecurity posture.”

Hurd’s effort is just the latest in Congress’s ongoing work to gradually grow the DHS cybersecurity role.

During the 2014 lame-duck session, lawmakers passed a series of bills that delineated the DHS’s cyber responsibilities for the first time, officially authorizing the NCCIC.

Cybersecurity legislation that has now passed both the House and Senate would also boost the NCCIC’s role in the public-private exchange of data on hackers. The bills are meant to encourage businesses to share more cyber threat information with the government, through the NCCIC.