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Senators introduce bill to strengthen cybersecurity of local governments

Senators introduce bill to strengthen cybersecurity of local governments
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday introduced legislation intended to shore up cybersecurity for local governments by providing resources for them to switch to secure internet domains administered by the federal government.

The bill, dubbed the DOTGOV Online Trust in Government Act, would not require local governments to switch their domains to .gov, but would require the Department of Homeland Security to provide resources and assistance to local governments that do intend to make the switch.

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Cyber criminals have spoofed local government websites due to some governments not using .gov addresses, which can trick individuals or businesses into sharing personal information with what they think is a secure government website.

Most federal and state governments websites already use the .gov domain, which is administered by the federal General Services Administration (GSA), but many local governments do not.

The bill is sponsored by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators call for commission to investigate Capitol attack Wisconsin Democrats make ad buy calling on Johnson to resign Efforts to secure elections likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress MORE (R-Wis.) as well as Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersThe Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today Two Senate committees vow probe of security failure during Capitol riots US government caught blindsided over sophisticated cyber hack, experts say MORE (Mich.), the panel's top Democrat, along with Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus Do Democrats really want unity? Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts MORE (D-Minn.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury The Hill's 12:30 Report: What to expect for inauguration GOP Sen. Lankford apologizes to Black constituents for opposing election results MORE (R-Okla.).

Peters noted in a statement that “local governments are responsible for safeguarding citizens’ personal data, from social security numbers and credit card information to detailed medical records,” adding that the bill would assist in protecting personal information.

Johnson said in a separate statement that the bill “will ensure state, local, tribal, and territorial governments have greater access to a trusted domain and Department of Homeland Security resources, ultimately increasing the security of their websites in today’s ever-changing cyber threat landscape.”

Various officials at the state level came out in favor of the bill on Wednesday, including Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), who described it as a way to “boost public confidence and strengthen the security of government systems.”