Senators Urge DHS to Fund Cyber Information-Sharing Programs

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Democratic Senators wrote the Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) with concerns regarding the agency’s funding levels for two information-sharing groups. The letter expresses concern about a potential lack of adequate funds for the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) and the Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC).

Senators Margaret Hassan (D-NH), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Gary Peters (D-MI) outlined the important mission of these groups and noted that the DHS’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020 covers less than 70 percent of the roughly $15 million required to maintain MS-ISAC and EI-ISAC at their current levels.

“CISA has long relied on partnerships to advance its mission, and the MS-ISAC is a prime example of this partnership-based approach. For nearly a decade, the Center for Internet Security (CIS) has held a cooperative agreement contract with the Department and served as a vital intermediary between [State, Local, Territorial and Tribal (SLLT)] governments and DHS. The ISAC has marshalled threat information, best practices, tools, and expertise to assist SL TT entities with hardening their cybersecurity posture,” the letter reads. “It is, therefore, surprising and concerning that CIS may not have enough funding to carry out its mission of improving the overall cybersecurity posture of the nation's SLTT entities- the exact mission that CISA has asked it to take on.”

The letter notes the increase in cyberattacks making this funding a pressing issue. The letter notes that state and local governments were the target of 230 attacks from 2013 through the end of September 2019, 81 of them occurring in 2019.

The Senators continue to explain that state and local governments lack the budget, personnel, and expertise necessary to defend themselves against evolving cyber threats. “There is an urgent need for greater resources and expertise from the federal government to help these entities build their resilience and defenses,” the letter explains.

The call for additional funding to combat cyber threats comes just hours after Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced via Twitter that the state’s cybersecurity team was in the process of responding to a ransomware attack targeting state services. The attack was similar in style to a ransomware attack impacting the state earlier in the year which targeted school districts just before the start of the school year.

The letter concluded, “With the recent surge of ransom ware attacks and 2020 elections fast approaching, we cannot afford to curtail support to SL TT entities and election administrators when they need it most. The prospect of a ransom ware attack against election infrastructure is real and threatens the foundations of our democracy. We hope that you will work with us to address this urgent concern and ensure that DHS provides MS-ISAC and EI-ISAC with the resources necessary to continue their important mission.”

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