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An Ohio Cybersecurity Reserve Could Soon Respond to Network Emergencies

State officials are in the process of determining whether a team of civilians could adequately respond to cybersecurity disasters.

(TNS) — Armed with keyboards and processors, Ohio's newest security force may one day deploy not to deal with natural disasters, but rather network disasters.

Maj. Gen. Mark E. Bartman, Ohio's adjutant general, said that under the direction of Gov. John Kasich, he started the Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee to determine what Ohio needs to do to improve cybersecurity and training.

Part of those efforts, he said, is to create an Ohio Cyber Reserve Force, a team of civilian information-technology experts that could be activated by the governor, working for the Ohio National Guard, to respond to major cyberattacks against state or local infrastructures.

"If there is a major incident within the state then the governor could call them out and put them on state active duty, just like we do with the National Guard," Bartman said.

Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, who as the Republican nominee for secretary of state has a particular interest in securing Ohio's election system, has introduced a bill to create what would be a first-in-the-nation cyberreserve.

The regional response teams would assist state, county and local government agencies to help prevent cyberattacks, or respond if one is successful.

"We can call in the cybercavalry when needed," said LaRose.

Richard Harknett, head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Cincinnati who has worked with U.S. Cyber Command, said a state Cyber Reserve would improve security by breaking down segmented government agencies and bringing "private-sector talent to bear in public-sector environments."

He sees it as a model that could serve the nation.

"That's going to have really positive effects over time, not just in the disaster space, but as these folks interface with each other, they're going to learn from each other, learn best practices," Harknett said.

The University of Cincinnati is already host to the new Ohio Cyber Range, designed to provide training and certification, along with exercises and cybercontests for students.

When not responding to emergencies, Cyber Reserve teams would be used to help with training, such as setting up high school cyberclubs to get youths interested in cybersecurity.

The bill, which includes $450,000 to operate the program, likely will not be heard until after the November election.

Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, LaRose's opponent for secretary of state, noted that she introduced a bill in January to begin converting every Ohio county to voter-marked and voter-verified paper ballots and establish a cybersecurity director and advisory council for the secretary of state's office.

Ohio's election system would be difficult to attack, considering its decentralized structure and vote tabulators that are never connected to the Internet.

"The mere perception that voting machines and systems can be compromised damages the public trust..." Clyde said.

©2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.