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

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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 Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (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. 

“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.”

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 Thompson (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 Richmond (La.), Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), and Derek Kilmer (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 Trump 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.

Tags Bennie Thompson Cedric Richmond Coronavirus cybersecurity Derek Kilmer Donald Trump Dutch Ruppersberger funding House Kevin McCarthy Nancy Pelosi

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