By Mark S. Nelson, J.D.
The House passed a bill that would open federal cybersecurity training to various state law enforcement and judicial actors. This latest cyber bill, which passed by voice vote, shows an ongoing effort by Congress to fill gaps in federal cybersecurity laws, but the much bigger House-Senate conference report on the sharing of cyber threat information between the government and private sector companies remains a work in progress. Both chambers also continue work on a transport bill (the House version has 15 banking and securities provisions), which the House may consider this week, and on an omnibus budget bill, which faces a December 11 deadline.
The Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act (H.R. 3490), sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex), would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to authorize the National Computer Forensics Institute to train and equip state and local law enforcement and judicial officials to engage in cybersecurity investigation and prevention activities. The U.S. Secret Service would operate the institute.
“It’s critical that we stand behind our law enforcement and give them the resources they need to keep us safe,” said Rep. Ratcliffe. “In an increasingly connected society with rapidly evolving technologies, it is no surprise that ‘digital evidence’ plays a prominent role in addressing nearly every crime and security threat we face today”
The state cyber crime bill is at least the House’s second attempt in a month to bring state and local regulators into the federal cybersecurity framework. The State and Local Cyber Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 3869), introduced by Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex), and co-sponsored by three others, including Rep. Ratcliffe, would give state and local governments access to federal cybersecurity resources.
According to a statement by Rep. Hurd, the bill is “common‐sense legislation” that can improve cybersecurity at the many levels of government. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers also welcomed the bill in a letter to the leaders of the House Homeland Security Committee.