WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced he introduced a bipartisan bill that would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a Cybersecurity State Coordinator program. The bill would ensure that each state has its own Cybersecurity Coordinator, who would be responsible for helping to prevent and respond to cybersecurity threats by working with federal, state, and local governments as well as schools, hospitals, utilities and other entities at risk of cyber-attacks. Peters was joined in introducing the legislation by U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH), and John Cornyn (R-TX).
“With cyber threats becoming more sophisticated and formidable every day, it’s vital that states have a point person responsible for coordinating cybersecurity efforts with experts in the federal government,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “These coordinators would help states better understand relevant threats, access federal cybersecurity resources and respond to potential attacks. I’m proud to cosponsor this commonsense, bipartisan legislation, which will help to ensure that all levels of government are prepared to combat cyber criminals and protect their networks.”
“Michigan is fortunate to be among the few states who already work closely with a dedicated professional from the Department of Homeland Security who coordinates initiatives with the federal government,” said Chris DeRusha, Chief Security Officer for the State of Michigan. “An on-the-ground cybersecurity coordinator has allowed for improved collaboration between the federal government and state entities, better equipping utilities, schools and small businesses to prepare for and respond to pervasive cyber threats. Senator Peters’ bill will allow all fifty states to better defend their constituents’ private, personal data from bad actors seeking to take advantage of our nation’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities.”
The Cybersecurity State Coordinator program would be housed in the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The State Coordinators would:
- Improve coordination within federal entities and between federal and non-federal entities, including state and local governments and other organizations;
- Support preparation, response, and remediation efforts relating to cybersecurity risks and incidents, including ransomware;
- Facilitate the sharing of cyber threat information;
- Raise awareness of financial, technical, and operational resources that the federal government offers to non-federal entities to help prevent cyber threats.
In recent years, state and local governments have repeatedly found themselves targeted by high-profile cyber-attacks, costing taxpayers millions of dollars and threatening the data privacy of millions of Americans. Hackers have successfully breached cybersecurity defenses in Atlanta, Colorado, Baltimore and Louisiana. Cyber-attacks on K-12 schools have also become increasingly common, resulting in a state of emergency in Louisiana and numerous school closures in Arizona. In 2018, Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools in Michigan were targeted by a malicious ransomware attack that temporarily shut down the district’s systems. Earlier this month, another Michigan school district fell prey to a similar ransomware attack, with hackers demanding thousands of dollars to unlock the district’s computer systems.
As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and a member of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, Peters has led efforts to bolster our nation’s cybersecurity defenses. Last year, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved Peters’ bipartisan legislation to promote stronger cybersecurity coordination between the Department of Homeland Security and state and local governments. The Senate also passed a Peters-led bill to develop and retain highly-skilled cybersecurity professionals in the federal workforce. Peters has also introduced bills to strengthen cybersecurity at the nation’s K-12 schools, expand access to cybersecurity resources for small businesses, bolster the cybersecurity of state and local governments, and defend the America’s voting systems from cyber-attacks.