Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin Applauds Passage of Bill to Protect California from Cyber-Attacks

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

“It’s a critical step toward building defenses that ensure our safety,” says Irwin.

 SACRAMENTO – This week the California State Legislature took a major step forward in attempting to protect public and private digital systems from cyber-attacks by passing legislation authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks). The bill, AB 1841, requires the State Office of Emergency Services to not only develop a plan to boost the cyber defenses of public networks, but to work with private entities to do the same. In the past, the idea of terrorists blowing up bridges and dams or taking over large, digital networks was limited to plots in fiction thrillers and action films, but recently the threat has become real and substantial.

“Refineries, the power grid and the State’s massive, public water system are just a few examples of the State’s overall infrastructure which now depend on digital controls,” says Irwin. “Reliance on computers have made these processes more efficient, but also more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. This is a critical step toward building defenses that ensure our safety.”

In the first half of 2015, alone, the Department of Homeland Security responded to 108 cyber incidents involving critical infrastructure in the U.S. Many of these were aimed at California facilities. Last year, Governor Jerry Brown called cyber-attacks against the state’s infrastructure a “major security risk.”  One of the challenges facing the State is the fact that the majority of these infrastructure systems is owned and operated by private companies, some of which are hesitant to admit to weaknesses in their defenses. Currently, voluntary information-sharing programs are in place allowing the public sector to collaborate with the private sector in building cyber defenses. Irwin’s bill would strengthen that partnership by requiring the OES to provide recommendations to private companies on how to improve their cybersecurity response plans. It also recognizes the sensitive nature of the information disclosed to the OES during this process and protects it from public disclosure and use in private litigation. Supporters believe Governor Jerry Brown will soon sign the bill into law.

**Assemblymember Irwin’s website: