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Cybersecurity bill advances from Senate State Affairs

Creative Commons

The world of technology includes good and bad actors, and SB187 aims to offer communities better internet service that can also help ward off potential cyber threats.

Sponsor Casey Crabtree, Senate Republican leader from Madison, explained the bill’s scope.

“The bill before you is appropriating $7-million in the efforts to have cities and counties to have systems similar when it comes to their email security as what we’ve already done with K-12," Crabtree said. "It’s not something that hasn’t worked here in South Dakota before. It’s allowing those folks to go and make sure their systems are secure.”

Consider the sensitive information municipal government has about its citizens – bank information, addresses and social security numbers. That means a technology breach can be a disaster.

“Dispatchers called me and said we have a ransom letter on our computer saying we’ve been hacked, and that’s when the fun started," said Pat Wolberg, director of Brown County IT. "When that happened, I talked to our emergency management because I had no idea what steps I was going to do at the county. They instructed me to contact the South Dakota Fusion Center, and they helped me walk through about six weeks of sleepless nights.”

The Brown County hack was eventually resolved. SB187 offers grant dollars for cash-strapped counties to be more proactive at their cybersecurity efforts.

Ashley Podhradsky, vice president of Research and Economic Development at Dakota State University, said the sooner threats are addressed on the front end the better.

“Those threats are coming from outside our state and outside our country in many different circumstances," Podhradsky said. "A bad actor gains access to an email system, and then they’re able to divert funds from payment of utilities for example, we’ve seen payroll diversions. When we look at the cybersecurity infrastructure for cities and counties and where the threats lie – they are everywhere.”

Opponents of the bill focused on the potential hit to the proposed budget regarding one-time funds, but the bill ultimately passed onto the Joint Appropriations Committee.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture