Members of Congress reintroduce bill empowering state, local governments to counter cyberattacks

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U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) was joined by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) in reintroducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to encourage state, local, and tribal governments to strengthen their defenses against cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities.

The State Cyber Resiliency Act,which was also introduced in the House by Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Michael McCaul (R-TX), would create and authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to run a grant program for states seeking to develop, revise or implement cyber resiliency measures—including efforts to identify, detect, protect, respond, and recover from cyber threats.

“As cyberattacks increase in frequency and gravity, we must ensure that our nation—from our local governments on up—is adequately prepared to protect public safety and combat cyber threats,” said Sen. Warner. “Nearly 70 percent of states have reported that they lack adequate funding to develop sufficient cybersecurity. This bill will aim to mitigate that need by providing grants to state and local jurisdictions so that they are better prepared to take on these emerging challenges.”

“It’s critical that our state and local governments invest in cyber preparedness and training, and I’m proud to work with Senator Warner and Representatives Kilmer and McCaul to create a grant program to help our communities with this effort,” said Sen. Gardner. “Colorado is at the forefront of our nation’s cybersecurity efforts and home to the National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs. As the threat of cyber warfare intensifies, it’s important that local governments are properly prepared to deter and protect themselves from cyber-attacks.”

“America should dedicate far more attention and resources to combating cyber threats,” said Rep. Kilmer. “Cyber-attacks could threaten our election systems, municipally-owned water treatment facilities, local emergency responder networks, or other vital systems that impact our communities. With that in mind, building our cyber resiliency matters to employers, workers, local governments, consumers – and even to our national security. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing a bipartisan plan to give state, local, and tribal governments more tools to counter these cyber threats.”

“As our nation continues to face cyber threats, we must ensure all levels of government are prepared to combat the emerging attacks to our cyber networks and other critical infrastructure. The enactment of CISA last year was a positive step forward to recalibrate our federal posture on cybersecurity, however, more needs to be done on a state and local level. Despite playing a vital role in protecting our nation against cyber-attacks, state governments often do not have the vital resources they need to strengthen their cybersecurity capabilities or retain or recruit seasoned cybersecurity professionals,” said Rep. McCaul. “As a co-chair of the House Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, I will continue to think holistically about protecting our networks on a federal, state, and local level. I am proud to join Senators Warner and Gardner, along with Congressman Kilmer, in introducing the State Cyber Resiliency Act to aid state and local governments with a new grant program to enhance their cyber defenses.” 

2018 survey by Deloitte-National Association recently found that most state cyber budgets are inadequate, with most states allocating between zero and three percent of their overall IT budget for cybersecurity purposes. Additionally, the survey found that budget and staffing remain top barriers to an effective cyber strategy, with nearly half of all states lacking a cybersecurity budget line item, and 28 percent pointing to an inadequate availability of cybersecurity professionals as a “top barrier.” In the past year, hackers have attacked a number of local governments in states such as ColoradoGeorgiaMaryland and Pennsylvania. These serious cyberattacks have cost taxpayers millions of dollars and have wreaked havoc on essential local government processes.

The State Cyber Resiliency Act also addresses the nation’s cybersecurity workforce talent gap by ensuring that participating states enhance recruitment and retention efforts. Currently, there are more than 313,000 cybersecurity job openings nationwide, including 33,500 in Virginia, 24,800 in Texas, 10,200 in Colorado, and 6,300 in Washington.

Sen. Warner, along with Sen. Gardner, is the co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, and recently introduced legislation to better protect customers, increase transparency for investors, and ensure public companies prioritize cybersecurity and data privacy. He also urged the Trump Administration in February to ensure the protection of critical electricity infrastructure and consider a federal government ban on the use of Huawei inverters in the United States.

The full text of the bill is available here.



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