Tech groups call on Congress to boost state funds for cybersecurity during pandemic

Tech groups call on Congress to boost state funds for cybersecurity during pandemic
© Getty Images

A coalition of major tech groups on Monday demanded that Congress send funds to state and local governments to defend against cyberattacks as part of the next coronavirus stimulus bill.

The Internet Association; BSA, the Software Alliance; CompTIA; the Cyber Threat Alliance; the Cybersecurity Coalition; the Global Cyber Alliance; the Alliance for Digital Innovation; and the Information Technology Industry Council sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Pelosi pulls vote on FISA bill after Trump veto threat MORE (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Trump threatens to veto FISA bill ahead of House vote Hillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections MORE (R-Calif.) demanding that cybersecurity funds be made a priority in future congressional funding packages.

The technology groups represent Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Adobe, Verizon, McAfee, Palo Alto Networks and many other leading cybersecurity organizations. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“The rise in malicious cyberattacks targeting State and local entities, combined with the chronic lack of workforce, patchwork legacy systems, under-sourced cybersecurity and IT services, and uneven federal assistance creates a greater risk of system failures that interrupts services on which State and local populations depend,” the groups wrote. 

The groups pointed to particular concerns around the uptick in ransomware attacks over the past year on state and local government groups, with hackers locking up systems and demanding payment.

These types of attacks have brought the governments of Baltimore, Atlanta and New Orleans to their knees in the past two years, along with small governments, libraries and school districts nationwide. 

The tech groups cited concerns that hospitals would be the next target of these attacks, an issue that experts have increasingly sounded the alarm over. 

“This was the reality before COVID-19,” the groups wrote. “Things have become considerably worse in the months since.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In order to address potential cyber vulnerabilities at the state and local level, the groups asked that Pelosi, McCarthy and other congressional leaders zero in on cybersecurity and make appropriating funding to boost defenses a priority in the next coronavirus stimulus bill. 

The letter from the tech groups was sent a week after House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonStates plead for cybersecurity funds as hacking threat surges House members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes Federal watchdog finds chemical facilities vulnerable to cyberattacks MORE (D-Miss.) and a group of other House Democrats also urged the House to fund cybersecurity defense at the state and local levels. 

The House Democrats, who also included Reps. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondStates plead for cybersecurity funds as hacking threat surges Democrats lobby Biden on VP choice Bottom line MORE (La.), Dutch RuppersbergerCharles (Dutch) Albert RuppersbergerTech groups call on Congress to boost state funds for cybersecurity during pandemic Political interference at the Justice Department puts our system of checks and balances in peril Hillicon Valley: Judge approves T-Mobile, Sprint merger | FTC to review past Big Tech deals | State officials ask for more cybersecurity help | House nears draft bill on self-driving cars MORE (Md.), and Derek KilmerDerek Christian KilmerDemocrats debate how and when to get House back in action Cornell to launch new bipartisan publication led by former Rep. Steve Israel Tech groups call on Congress to boost state funds for cybersecurity during pandemic MORE (Wash.), asked that Pelosi and McCarthy consider sending states “cybersecurity assistance grants” to ensure networks stay up and running during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The American public is counting on State and local jurisdictions to implement and deliver COVID-19 relief packages approved by Congress,” the members wrote. “Any disruption in the delivery of services would only compound the strain on State and local governments struggling to effectively serve their citizens in the midst of a global pandemic. We cannot let that happen.”

Hackers have stepped up efforts to target both organizations and individuals during the ongoing pandemic. Cybersecurity groups have reported spikes in malicious emails tied to coronavirus issues and agencies such as the World Health Organization and the Department of Health and Human Services being targeted by attacks. 

Some of the tech groups that sent the letter Monday sent a similar request to Capitol Hill last week asking that Congress fund information technology (IT) and cybersecurity issues that have surfaced during the pandemic. 

The $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill signed into law by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths DOJ: George Floyd death investigation a 'top priority' Lifting our voices — and votes MORE last month included some funding for IT modernization and $9.1 million to boost the capabilities of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency.