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Bipartisan group of senators introduces legislation to boost state cybersecurity leadership

A bipartisan group of senators on Friday introduced legislation that would establish a federally funded program to put in place state cybersecurity leaders nationwide, increasing the ability of states to respond to cyberattacks.

The Cybersecurity State Coordinator Act would create a federal program named after the bill that would ensure every state has a cybersecurity coordinator, with this person responsible for working with all levels of government to prepare for, prevent, and respond to cyberattacks.

The program would be housed within the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, an agency that works closely with state and local governments on issues including defending against cyber threats to elections.

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The bill would also increase coordination on cyber issues between the federal government and state and local governments, boost efforts to prepare for and respond to cyberattacks, and increase sharing of cyber threat information.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) is the lead sponsor of the bill, with Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) as co-sponsors.

In introducing the legislation, Hassan highlighted the ongoing nationwide ransomware attacks on cities and government entities. These types of attacks, which recently crippled the government of New Orleans, involve an individual or group locking up a system and demanding a ransom to give the user access again.

Cyberattacks can be devastating for communities across our country, from ransomware attacks that can block access to school or medical records to cyberattacks that can shut down electrical grids or banking services,” Hassan said in a statement. “The federal government needs to do more to ensure that state and local entities have the resources and training that they need to prevent and respond to cyberattacks.”

Hassan added that the new bill “would take a big step forward in improving communication between the federal government, states, and localities, as well as strengthening cybersecurity preparedness in communities across the country.”

A congressional source told The Hill that while there is no House companion measure to the Senate bill, Hassan is working with House members to facilitate a companion bill.

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