FederalStatewide NewsRep. Van Taylor Proposes Bill to Strengthen Cybersecurity for State and Local Governments

After more than 20 entities linked to local governments in Texas fell victim to cyberattacks in August, Rep. Van Taylor introduced legislation aimed at enhancing cybersecurity for state and local systems.
December 16, 2019
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Last week, Congressman Van Taylor (R-TX-03) introduced legislation with bipartisan support from members of the Texas delegation aimed at protecting state and local governments from growing cybersecurity threats. 

“Just this year in Texas alone, more than fifty local governments and school districts were hit by ransomware attacks. My commonsense bill will ensure smaller units of government will have knowledge of and access to tools and resources available to protect their digital systems,” Rep. Taylor said in an official statement about his proposed legislation. 

Local governments house important data within their systems, including financial information, medical data, election information, and other forms of personally identifiable information (PII).

Oftentimes, however, these entities lack the resources to adequately protect and modernize their systems as needed, leaving valuable data susceptible to ransomware and various other forms of cyberattack. 

Texas, specifically, is no stranger to cyberattacks after more than 20 organizations linked to local Texas governments fell victim to a coordinated ransomware attack at the end of August. 

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Recently, an increasing number of independent school districts have been victims of cyberattacks, including Crosby ISD, Port Neches-Groves ISD, and Splendora ISD among others. 

Rep. Taylor’s legislation, Strengthening State and Local Cybersecurity Defenses Act, authorizes the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to coordinate with the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) to increase engagement with smaller municipalities, businesses, international partners, and the general public in an effort to combat growing cybersecurity threats. 

In doing so, the bill aims to confront the growing threats posed by cyberattacks, not only at the federal level of government but at the state and local level as well.

Designated by DHS, MS-ISAC is a key resource for cyber threat prevention, protection, response and recovery that is focused on information sharing. 

Despite having numerous resources capable of helping protect against cyber threats, according to Rep. Taylor, only about 8 percent of the more than 89,000 government entities in the U.S. utilize the various technical resources and alerts provided by MS-ISAC and CISA. 

The proposed legislation requires CISA to ensure smaller government units are aware of the many tools and resources available to them through training, exercises, threat notifications, technical assistance, and enhanced information sharing. 

Notably, the bill has garnered bipartisan support from members of the Texas delegation, including both Rep. Al Green (D-TX-09) and Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX-23) as cosponsors.

Describing it as an honor to join Rep. Taylor in cosponsoring the legislation, Rep. Green said of the bill, “The internet has become an integral part of our lives, and we are increasingly vulnerable to having our sensitive information accessed or stolen by bad actors.”

Rep. Hurd issued similar sentiments about the bill in light of the growing risks posed by cyber threats.

“From credit card numbers to social security numbers, our personal information is targeted by bad actors around the globe. Unfortunately, our state and local governments do not have access to technical capabilities and training required to address cyber vulnerabilities,” Hurd said.

Other cosponsors for the bill include Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) as well as Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Michael Guest (R-MS), and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI). 

Additionally, the bill has garnered support from various government units at both the state and local levels, including the Texas Department of Information Resources, McKinney ISD, and the cities of both Plano and Frisco. 

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Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.