A singular effort to protect local and state governments in Maryland from increasingly common cyberattacks will soon kick into high gear after Governor Larry Hogan signed a trio of cybersecurity preparedness bills into law on Thursday.
The bills, among several dozen to be signed by the governor during one of the last bill-signing ceremonies of the 2022 legislative session, follow a series of costly ransomware and other cyberattacks. which temporarily paralyzed governmental bodies in Maryland.
A 2019 ransomware attack in Baltimore devastated the city’s government system for weeks and cost millions of dollars. In 2020, paychecks and class schedules were among the systems compromised in an attack on public schools in Baltimore County. An attack on the Maryland Department of Health last December left daily COVID-19 statistics unreported just as the omicron variant was beginning to spread in the state.
Senate Speaker Bill Ferguson, a Democrat from Baltimore, said the record investments will now help protect “against disruptive cyberattacks from Russia or any of our international adversaries.”
Hogan, in brief remarks before taking photos and handing out pens amid a parade of voters and lawmakers, said the cybersecurity bills “further strengthen Maryland’s position as a cybercapital.” from America”.
It was the third bill-signing ceremony for the hundreds of bills the Democratic-controlled General Assembly passed during this year’s 90-day session. Hogan, a Republican in his final year as governor, had already signed — or overridden vetoes — many of the year’s landmark new laws, such as expanding abortion access, creating a statewide paid medical and family leave program and strengthening climate change. Goals.
Other bills finalized with Hogan’s signature on Thursday include those establishing a program to help nurses and nursing support staff repay education loans, creating a fund to fight childhood cancer, banning kidnapping historical trees identified in what are called “ancient forests”. and express solidarity with Ukraine against Russia.
The cybermeasures make permanent aspects of an executive order Hogan signed in 2019 while providing additional resources and rules to help county and state governments, school systems and local health departments against digital attacks.
Legislation focused on these entities will fund a new cybersecurity preparedness unit within the Maryland Department of Emergency Management. It will have a budget of approximately $455,000 and a staff of five to work with local governments. According to an analysis of the bill, an additional $6.1 million will go to software and 40 new positions such as cyber policy and strategy planners, analysts and incident responders within the Department of Information Technology. information.
State government entities, meanwhile, will receive more attention by being required to conduct cybersecurity assessments every two years, costing around $10 million for each round.
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The State Information Security Officer, a position created by Executive Order in 2019, will become an official role appointed by the Governor and approved by the State Senate to manage cybersecurity incidents and create a policy, including guidelines on when incidents are disclosed publicly.
Other new entities in the laws include a Local Cybersecurity Support Fund to help local governments fund cybersecurity, and an oversight commission to provide a longer-term “strategic roadmap.” One of the laws will require public and private water or sewer systems that serve at least 10,000 people and receive state funding to assess their vulnerability to attack and develop cybersecurity plans.
“These are bills that have really gotten into the weeds, and it’s really important that we get it right,” Ferguson said.
Environmentalists, meanwhile, helped introduce and pass the anti-logging measure this year to prevent the destruction of ancient forests – forests that have never been altered by humans.
Less than a tenth of 1% of the state’s 2.8 million acres of forested land remains in this state, but it does not enjoy the same protections as larger areas designated as state forests or wilderness lands. The new law will provide protections for old-growth forests as small as five acres on state conservation lands.
The signing of the nurse loan scheme took place on International Nurses Day. Funding for the program will be determined by a group of stakeholders established by law. It is intended to support the nursing workforce – as well as support staff like certified practical nurses and medical technicians – whose numbers have shrunk under the stress of the pandemic.
Finally, the creation of a Maryland Pediatric Cancer Fund within the Maryland Department of Health will devote $5 million to pediatric cancer research, distributed in the form of grants to doctors, hospitals, laboratories or institutions of education.