Ohio lawmakers vote to set up a cyber reserve to fight, prevent attacks

Civilian volunteers who are experts in computers and information technology would be part of a new ‘cyber reserve’ to fight and prevent hacks against government systems, under a bill that passed the Ohio House on Wednesday.

Lawmakers voted 90-0 in favor of Senate Bill 52, which would create the Ohio Cyber Reserve under the command of the Adjutant General. The team of experts would protect against attacks on critical infrastructure and government systems.

Reservists would be paid while on state active duty and volunteer for training. They could not be called up for national military service.

Local officials facing a cyber threat would contact the governor to request activation of the Cyber Reserve. The teams would also be permitted to conduct cyber security vulnerability assessments.

The legislation also calls for the Secretary of State, who oversees elections in Ohio, to be added to the Homeland Security Advisory Council. The Secretary of State would be mandated to appoint a chief information security officer, who would be a resource for county boards of elections.

The bill also calls for regular audits of elections.

The bill is supported by Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Ohio National Guard Major General John Harris, the Ohio Municipal League, Ohio Utilities Protection Services, Ohio Township Association and others.

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Earlier this year, a ransomware attack hit the city of Akron’s systems and ransomware infected some computers tat Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

LaRose and Harris have argued that small local government entities don’t have the resources to deal with such cyber threats. The Cyber Reserve is a way to tap into existing expertise, they have said.

House changes to the bill still need to be agreed to by the Senate before the measure heads to Gov. Mike DeWine.

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