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Ohio Elections Chief Backs Cyberdefense Legislation

A proposal to create a civilian reserve force to fight back against cyberattacks got the support of Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who testified before a Senate oversight committee Tuesday.

(TNS) — Ohio’s top elections official is backing a bill meant to toughen the state’s cyberdefenses in time for the 2020 campaign.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, testified Tuesday in Columbus in favor of Senate Bill 52, which would create a civilian reserve force to help prevent and fight back against cyberattacks.

The bill also requires the secretary of state’s office to hire an information security chief and makes the secretary of state a member of a state committee that helps develop Ohio’s cybersecurity plans. It also requires local boards of elections to conduct post-elections audits by hand-counting ballots or reviewing paper trails of electronic voting machines.

The Ohio Cyber Reserve wouldn’t be paid unless they are summoned for active duty. The current bill sets aside $100,000 to fund the reserve in 2019, and another $550,000 for 2020.

Testifying before the Ohio Senate’s government oversight committee, LaRose said he recently attended a classified briefing with federal homeland security and intelligence officials in Washington, D.C., about possible threats to the 2020 election.

“We are on the front lines of that battle, and we have to do everything to ensure that Ohio is a leader in the nation in securing our cyberinfrastructure, including our elections infrastructure,” LaRose said.

Senate Bill 52 is sponsored by Sen. Theresa Gavarone, a Bowling Green Republican appointed to the state senate earlier this month.

Ohio Adjutant General John Harris, who leads the Ohio National Guard for Gov. Mike DeWine, also testified on Tuesday in support of the cybersecurity bill. He referenced the January hacking of the Akron city government’s servers as an example of the threat governments face.

©2019 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.