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State senator proposes Pennsylvania commission to defend against municipal cyber attacks

LANCASTER, Pa. -- Three email phishing schemes in Strasburg, Lancaster County, as well as cyber attacks striking services in two U.S. cities have some people in Pennsylvania thinking about the state of cyber security in the commonwealth.

According to the Pennsylvania Office of Administration's website, Thursday's cyber threat level was listed as guarded due to various government networks being hacked. Since state and local government agencies often work together, it also makes viruses easy to spread.

It's why some want to give the state's chief information officer more ammunition against these attacks.

With several recent cyber attacks on government agencies, the Chairman of the Pennsylvania Senate Committee on Communications and Technology, Senator Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster County), proposes a way to fight back.

Aument said "a commission on cyber security, to get the experts around the table to take a look at our systems, to look at the various state agencies, to look at state government, and to look at our municipal government."

Two cyber attacks on U.S. cities within the last week include a ransomware attack which crippled the city of Atlanta's municipal services, and a hack that breached Baltimore's 911 emergency system.

"Globally, billions and billions of dollars have been spent on cyber security, and taxpayers will be forced to spend significant amount of money in Pennsylvania to ensure that we have systems in place," Aument said.

The price to pay for these attacks could cost more than just dollars and cents, or a loss in government services.

"Certainly an impact on privacy. There's data that the state does collect from residents of the commonwealth, from state employees, that could be made available, and our citizens could be vulnerable as a result of it," Aument said.

Aument hopes that his bill, Senate Bill 914, which focuses on cyber security, will help give the state a stronger defense to prevent that from happening.

"Establishing a cyber security commission, I think is an important step, so that we're bringing the subject matter experts, the cyber security experts from the private sector to the table. A lot of this expertise may not exist within government, but certainly does outside of government," Aument said.

Some may be wondering at what price will a cyber security commission cost taxpayers, but Aument said no cost for the commission has been established at this point