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Legislative Commission on Cybersecurity proposed to shore up state systems

House Photography file photo
House Photography file photo

Increased attempted data breaches and phishing scams are the norm in a technology-driven society. That includes state government agencies, where a powerful defense is a must.

“COVID-19 and civil unrest has made Minnesota a target,” said Rep. Kristin Bahner (DFL-Maple Grove). “In April 2020 we saw an increase of 30% in cases for the state security operations center. In June, Minnesota saw a flood of denial service attacks.

“And while (Minnesota IT Services) was able to thwart the impact to public websites, attacks that keep Minnesotans from getting information during a pandemic is never acceptable.”

Bahner sponsors HF66 to provide another level of security against people who want data for nefarious or other reasons.

House State Government Finance and Elections Committee 02/04/21

It would create a Legislative Commission on Cybersecurity to be comprised of eight legislators representing both bodies and both parties. A preliminary fiscal note shows a $10,000 annual cost for things like per diem and travel; however, if the commission were to hire a dedicated staff person, that cost would jump to $180,000 annually.

The bill was held over Thursday by the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee for possible omnibus bill inclusion. There is no Senate companion.

Per the bill, “The commission shall provide oversight of the state's cybersecurity measures. The commission shall review the policies and practices of state agencies with regard to cybersecurity and may recommend changes in policy to adequately protect the state from cybersecurity threats. The commission may develop recommendations and draft legislation to support and strengthen the state's cybersecurity infrastructure.”

Rohit Tandon, chief information security officer at MN.IT, said a cybersecurity commission is among the recommendations from the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Council on Information Technology.

“Our state needs a way to sit down and confidentially brief the legislative body on the issues associated with cyberattacks and defense,” said Rick King, who chairs the council. “There’s no mechanism to do that out of public view. And the problem with the public view is that the nefarious operators are out there listening to anything that’s in the public and will use the information that they glean from that to attack.”

“We must ensure that citizens of Minnesota know that their tax dollars in this area will be spent wisely … and most importantly that they can rely on state government to deliver the core services that they expect,” Bahner said.

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