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Missouri lawmakers consider cybersecurity commission

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As work and life continue to move online, a bill in the Missouri Legislature seeks to create a commission to evaluate the state’s cybersecurity. 

HB 1204, sponsored by Rep. Bill Hardwick, would establish the Missouri Cybersecurity Commission. The commission would operate under the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and analyze data from various state agencies, schools, and higher education institutions to identify risks and vulnerabilities in Missouri’s cyber infrastructure. It would be required to file an annual report on its findings with the governor.

“[The Office of Administration] and the state of Missouri do a fantastic job of making sure that our networks are secure and that we have good protocols in place to protect them,” Hardwick said before the House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday. “This bill would be a really positive advancement to identify the risks that we have from state actors, non-state actors around the world, and attacks that could potentially come in the future. It’s a good step forward and a good dialogue we could have about the best way we can identify information to the governor in case of an emergency.”

The commission would be made up of nine members, including one person each from the Missouri National Guard, the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), and the Highway Patrol. Members would be appointed by the governor, with no more than five aligned with one political party. 

Hardwick noted he had worked with technology during his career with the Missouri National Guard and said the landscape of security had changed substantially over the past 20 years. 

“We think about security in terms of physical security — we have the Capitol Police and other measures — but we forget we have another piece that’s rapidly expanding, which is all of our data and information,” he said. “We need to be thinking about what could occur in the future and consider how we can be adaptable.”

He noted the bill was a bipartisan effort, having received input from Democratic Rep. Ashley Aune, a fellow freshman, when compiling the bill. 

“Technology is ever-changing, and the ways in which we secure data at all levels of government is becoming increasingly important in the face of constant cyber threats,” Aune told The Missouri Times. “I’m thrilled to be working on this issue with Rep. Hardwick because, as a first-term state representative, I’m beginning to gain insights into the opportunities we have to support and improve our current infrastructure get ahead of future attacks.”

Lobbyist Katie Gamble spoke in favor of the bill on behalf of cybersecurity company Fortinet, the only witness besides the sponsor to testify. 

“We’re really excited to see legislation bringing cybersecurity issues to the forefront,” she said. “Oftentimes they are out of sight and out of mind, and a cybersecurity attack could be a major problem.”

The committee did not take executive action on the bill Wednesday.

This story has been updated.