A new bill introduced in the House – the Strengthening State and Local Cybersecurity Defenses Act (H.R. 5394) – would require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to offer more outreach and support to state and local governments.

The bill, introduced December 11, is backed by a bipartisan group of House members, and comes in the wake of a string of ransomware attacks on local governments. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Push CISA to conduct exercises and trainings with local governments;
  • Assist with timely and specific threat-sharing through entities like the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC);
  • Coordinate a nationwide effort to ensure effective implementation of cybersecurity tools;
  • Provide technical assistance upon request;
  • Help state and local governments craft vulnerability disclosure policies; and
  • Promote greater awareness of CISA’s cybersecurity resources.

“My commonsense bill will ensure smaller units of government will have knowledge of and access to the tools and resources available to protect their digital systems,” said Rep. Van Taylor, R-Texas, primary sponsor of the bill.

While CISA does already offer services to state and local governments, only eight percent of state and local governments use CISA’s cybersecurity resources, and the bill aims to remedy this by increasing CISA’s engagement outside the Federal realm.

The bill also widens the definition of “entity” to include businesses, nonprofits, associations, and the general public.

“State and local governments often house sensitive data on their systems including financial information of utility customers, medical records, election data, and criminal records. The same is true for associations, small businesses, and the general public. However, these local entities are falling victim to ransomware and other cyber-attacks at an increasing rate, oftentimes, with limited resources to safeguard their systems,” the bill’s press release notes.

In addition to Rep. Taylor, the bill is backed by cybersecurity mainstay Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, along with Reps. Mike Rogers R-Ala., Al Green, D-Texas, Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., Michael Guest, R-Miss., and Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich.

“I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bill to bridge this gap by making sure governments at all levels know resources available to them and can receive assistance upon request,” said Rep. Hurd.

The bill has been referred to the House Homeland Security Committee, where Taylor and most of the cosponsors are members, and the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

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