Cybersecurity not just a federal issue, lawmakers argue

The House passed a bill on Monday that formally authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to train state and local law enforcement officials in counter-cyber crime techniques.

“The fact that our federal law enforcement is seeing a cyber element to almost every national security threat and crime problem is incredibly compelling, because you can be certain that our state and local law enforcement are seeing the same trend, but with a lot fewer opportunities to learn...

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The House passed a bill on Monday that formally authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to train state and local law enforcement officials in counter-cyber crime techniques.

“The fact that our federal law enforcement is seeing a cyber element to almost every national security threat and crime problem is incredibly compelling, because you can be certain that our state and local law enforcement are seeing the same trend, but with a lot fewer opportunities to learn how to address it,” bill sponsor Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) said on the House floor Monday.

The bill focuses on the National Computer Forensics Institute, a Secret Service-operated cybersecurity training center for state and local law enforcement agencies.

Ratcliffe’s bill, the Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act, if passed, puts Congress’ seal of approval on a training program that has been operating for years.

Since 2008, Secret Service special agents have taught counter-cybersecurity tactics to law officers, prosecutors and judges from the NCFI headquarters, a  32,000-square-foot facility located in Hoover, Alabama.

Ratfcliffe said NCFI has trained more than 4,500 local law enforcement officials from all 50 states.

In October, FBI Director James Comey told the House Judiciary Committee “virtually every national security threat” monitored by federal law enforcement is either cyber-based or cyber-facilitated.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) cited Comey’s testimony as his reason for supporting the bill.

“With this in mind, National Computer Forensics Institute serves the vital purpose of providing legal and judicial professionals a free, comprehensive education on current cyber crime trends, investigative methods, and proprietorial and judicial challenges,” he said.

The bill heads the Senate, which passed a major cybersecurity bill of its own in October. That bill, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, encourages private-sector industries to pass along sensitive information to national security agencies in the event of a large-scale cyber breach.

“During the past decade, our federal law enforcement community has observed a significant increase in the quality, quantity and complexity of cyber crimes, targeting private industry including our financial services sector,” Del. Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico) said in support of the bill.

Ratfcliffe said law enforcement officials often need training to find evidence of a cyber crime.

“In today’s world, we have to rely upon digital evidence: an email that was sent, an online purchase that was made, geolocation technology that places an individual at the scene of a crime,” he said.
“It no longer takes a sophisticated cyber criminal  to compromise the personal and sensitive information of U.S. companies and everyday Americans.”

The bill doesn’t give any additional funding to DHS or the Secret Service. Goodlatte said the NCIF allows local law enforcement to do more with less.

“Each professional educated at the Institute is a force multiplier for the Secret Service, and after successful completion of the program, the students can bring their new knowledge back to their local agency and inform their colleagues,” he said