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 JohnsonSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Ginsburg lies in repose MORE (R-Wis.) as well as Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersHillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Postmaster general says postal service can't return mail-sorting machines The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump faces backlash after not committing to peaceful transition of power MORE (Mich.), the panel's top Democrat, along with Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Minn.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordMcConnell works to lock down GOP votes for coronavirus bill Charities scramble to plug revenue holes during pandemic Warren calls for Postal Service board members to fire DeJoy or resign 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.”