Senate unanimously approves Boehnke bill to protect Washingtonians from cyber-attacks, ransomware

On Thursday the Washington State Senate voted 49-0 to advance Sen. Matt Boehnke’s legislation to help protect the state from malicious cyber activities, such as ransomware.

“It’s not a matter of if, it is a matter of when,” said Boehnke, R-Kennewick. “If you haven’t been the victim of a cyber-attack, you will be. Chances are that you have been hit already, your data is probably already compromised on the dark web, and you just don’t know it yet.

“We have to integrate cybersecurity into our emergency processes the same way we do with floods, fires and other emergencies across the state. We have to look at our infrastructure, look at how we would respond, what are those contingency plans – how do we close the gaps within our agency plans. The goal of this bill is to work with our technology service groups and coordinate our prevention and response efforts, filling in those gaps that leave us vulnerable.”

Second Substitute Senate Bill 5518 would establish the Cybersecurity Advisory Committee as a subcommittee of the Emergency Management Council; create the Technology Services Board Security Subcommittee within the Technology Services Board; and expand the Department of Commerce’s authority regarding energy-related activities to include preparing and updating contingency plans for securing energy infrastructure against all physical and cybersecurity threats.

Boehnke thanked the members and staff of the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee for the bipartisan effort that went into producing the bill and looking for solutions to the state’s cybersecurity challenges.

He highlighted the efforts of Sen. Joe Nguyễn, D-White Center, who chairs the committee, for his leadership and work on the bill.

Nguyễn also thanked the committee members for their work and praised the final product, applauding Boehnke for his expertise on the issue.

“One of the interesting things is that as a part time legislative body, we are able to bring our experiences to this chamber,” said Nguyễn. “Having someone with a deep expertise in cybersecurity, having someone with a military background, having somebody who also serves on the [Technology Services Board] already – I see no more fitting person to lead these efforts than [Senator Boehnke] right now.”

Senate Bill 5518 now goes to the House of Representatives for that chamber’s consideration.