Ohio Lawmakers Look into Strengthening State’s Election, Cybersecurity Efforts

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by Steven Bittenbender

 

With election security frequently in the news, the Ohio House Transportation and Public Safety Committee took the opportunity recently to discuss a cybersecurity bill.

The panel convened a hearing on Senate Bill 52, which deals with bolstering the state’s cybersecurity. A major part of the initiative is to protect the state’s elections from outside interference or tampering.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose said it’s an important issue, especially given that Ohio’s likely to be a swing state in next year’s presidential election.

“The eyes of the world will be on Ohio in 2020, and we will rise to that occasion,” he said.

The Secretary of State told the committee that, if passed, the measure gives Ohio a chance to become a national leader in cybersecurity. It received unanimous support in the Senate.

Beyond the election provisions, the bill also creates a permanent Chief Information Security Officer for the state that would be based within the Secretary of State’s office. LaRose said that position’s role would be different from the Chief Information Officer, which also reports to him. The CISO would work with the state’s 88 county boards of elections.

In addition, the state also would create an Ohio Cyber Reserve force. This civilian unit would be like the state’s National Guard and would be called upon to protect and defend the state’s infrastructure as necessary. Although the force wouldn’t be part of the military, it would report under the state’s Adjutant General’s office.

The bill calls on the state to spend $100,000 in fiscal year 2019 funds and another $550,000 in 2020 to ramp up and roll out the unit, which would only be paid when called to serve. Those instances likely would be when a city or county government or a board of elections experiences a cyber attack.

All training would be unpaid.

Funding for the salaries tied to the reserve are being proposed in Gov. Mike DeWine’s budget.

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Steven Bittenbender is a reporter at Watchdog.org.

 

 

 

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