Lawmakers unveil bill to help state, local governments with cybersecurity

Lawmakers unveil bill to help state, local governments with cybersecurity

A bipartisan pair of senators has introduced a bill that would require the federal government to do more to help state and local officials combat cyber threats.

Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) on Thursday announced that they have reintroduced the State and Local Cyber Protection Act, which would bolster cybersecurity cooperation between the Department of Homeland Security and state and local governments. 

Cybersecurity has attracted increased attention in the wake of Russia’s cyberattacks aimed at influencing the presidential election and other high-profile breaches in the public and private sectors. Officials have particularly expressed concerns about the vulnerability of state systems and infrastructure to attacks. 

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Dozens of states asked federal officials for help securing their voting systems from cyberattacks ahead of the November elections, following reports that election databases in Arizona and Illinois had suffered breaches.

The legislation would require the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center to provide help and training, upon request, to state, local and tribal governments on thwarting and responding to cyber threats. 

“Our nation is facing an ever-growing threat from increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks, and we are only as strong as our weakest link,” Peters, who is a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement on Thursday.

“State and local governments face unique cybersecurity threats that can endanger critical infrastructure, as well as residents’ sensitive personal and financial data,” he said.

Perdue described the bill as “key in combating the asymmetric threats we face on a daily basis.”

The senators introduced the same legislation in the last Congress, but it was never put up for a vote.

State officials just recently underscored the need to improve their cyber defenses during the National Governors Association’s winter meeting in Washington, D.C.

“Cybersecurity is critical to each and every governor,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who has made cybersecurity a priority as the assosication’s chair, said during a session over the weekend. “We have a wealth of information that every single day people are trying to get in and get our information through cyber threats and cyber criminals.”