Senators advance bill to train small business counselors in cybersecurity

Senators advance bill to train small business counselors in cybersecurity
© Greg Nash

A Senate committee with oversight of the Small Business Administration has advanced legislation that would mandate cybersecurity training for counselors helping businesses prepare for cyber threats.

The Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee approved the legislation following a business meeting on Wednesday, committee leaders said in a statement. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), would require that employees at small-business development centers that receive grants from the Small Business Administration be trained in how to defend against cybersecurity threats and attacks.

The bill passed the committee easily in a unanimous vote, along with five additional pieces of legislation.

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“This diverse package of commonsense legislation will give small businesses a boost in areas where they need it,” Risch said in a statement.  “I am pleased to see these bills move forward with the committee’s unanimous approval, and am particularly glad to see my cybersecurity bill advance, as it will address the vulnerability that so many small businesses face head on.” 

The bill has a slate of bipartisan co-sponsors, including the committee’s ranking member Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law MORE (D-N.H.), as well as Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who are both members of the committee.

The Small Business Cyber Training Act of 2017 would direct the Small Business Administration to establish a cyber counseling program to certify small-business development center counselors to offer cybersecurity planning help to small businesses that request it.

Shaheen cheered the committee’s bipartisan work on the legislation. “New Hampshire is a small-business state, and these targeted bills will provide our small businesses with additional tools to grow and succeed,” she said. 

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have focused on cybersecurity threats to small businesses as research has showed that they are increasingly targeted with phishing and other cyberattacks. 

The Small Business Administration offers grants to state governments and other organizations to set up small-business development centers across the country to provide a variety of assistance to small businesses, including business plan development, financial packaging and lending assistance, and healthcare guidance.