A bill to protect Washingtonians from ransomware and other cyberattacks is another step closer to becoming law, having advanced on a unanimous vote out of the state Senate.
Second Substitute Senate Bill 5518 would establish the Cybersecurity Advisory Committee as a subcommittee of the Emergency Management Council that advises the governor and the director of the Washington Military Department on matters related to state and local emergency management.
In addition, SSSB 5518, which passed the Senate 49-0 on Thursday, would create the Technology Services Board Security Subcommittee within the Technology Services Board. The TSB focuses primarily on information technology long-term planning.
The bill would also expand the Department of Commerce’s authority with respect to energy-related activities, including preparing and updating contingency plans for securing energy infrastructure against all threats — physical and cyber.
“We have to integrate cybersecurity into our emergency processes the same way we do with floods, fires and other emergencies across the state,” Sen. Matt Boehnke, R-Kennewick, sponsor of the bill, explained in a news release. “We have to look at our infrastructure, look at how we would respond, what are those contingency plans — how do we close the gaps within our agency plans. The goal of this bill is to work with our technology service groups and coordinate our prevention and response efforts, filling in those gaps that leave us vulnerable.”
Sen. Joe Nguyễn, D-White Center, who chairs the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee that worked on the bill, had high praise for his fellow senator and committee colleague.
“One of the interesting things is that as a part time legislative body, we are able to bring our experiences to this chamber,” Nguyễn said. “Having someone with a deep expertise in cybersecurity, having someone with a military background, having somebody who also serves on the (Technology Services Board) already — I see no more fitting person to lead these efforts than (Senator Boehnke) right now.”
Since 2015, Boehnke has served as the director and lead professor of the cybersecurity division at Columbia Basin College in Pasco. He also owns a cybersecurity consulting business and has more than three decades of experience in data privacy and cyber security — most of that in the military — working with classified data systems.
SSSB 5518 is working its way through the Legislature on the heels of a report released in December by the state attorney general’s office that had bad news about cybercrime in the Evergreen State.
According to the report, “In 2022, Washingtonians experienced the second most data breaches (150) and the second highest number of Washingtonians impacted by data breaches (4.5 million) in a single year.”
The bill now goes on to the House of Representatives for consideration.