New PA Bill to Allow National Guard to Counter Cyber-Attacks

The State of Pennsylvania unanimously passed House Bill 2412 on 4/27/2022, to allow the use and expertise of the Pennsylvania National Guard to counter cyber-attacks and prevent cyber intrusion. The bill was sponsored by Reps. Craig Williams (R-Chester/Delaware) and Valerie Gaydos (R-Allegheny). 

“Cyber-attack is growing exponentially, both by cybercriminals and nation-state actors,” Williams said. “As a legislator, I am committed to finding as many proactive forces at our disposal to fight back. That’s why my bill brings experts in the Pennsylvania National Guard into the state team to respond to cyber crises and combat these insidious crimes.”

Governments have become prime targets for cybercriminals. State and municipal governments offer a wealth of information about citizen activity that cybercriminals would want to take advantage of for identity theft and ransomware attempts.

In 2017, the Pennsylvania Senate had their entire computer system hacked and held for ransom. Earlier this year, Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry revealed that hackers were transferring Pennsylvanians’ unemployment compensation checks to fraudulent accounts. The recent string of malicious and dangerous attacks demonstrates an active threat to the critical infrastructure of both state and local governments.

“This is all happening as our energy needs and infrastructure are expanding,” Gaydos said, “and the government is housing more and more of your information, both personal and professional. This means keeping information secure and supporting more educational initiatives to help train people to work in the cybersecurity field is becoming more and more essential. Fortunately, we have experts here in the Commonwealth who could help in a cyber emergency.”

Pennsylvania is home to two military cybersecurity teams: The Pennsylvania Army National Guard Defensive Cyber Operations and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard 112th Cyberspace Operations Squadron. House Bill 2412 would give the Pennsylvania National Guard the authority to provide functional support for cybersecurity needs, both in crisis response and in proactive training, across the Commonwealth.

“The men and women of these units are dedicated to the dual mission of ensuring cyber preparedness and providing a rapid cyber incident response,” Williams said. “Our bill would allow the Commonwealth to mobilize these experts through a special state duty status to protect our vital systems and secure personal information.”

House Bill 2412 would allow trained military cybersecurity experts to support requests from state agencies in need of immediate assistance or training. Furthermore, the bill will allow the guard to receive requests and provide support to non-government entities with cybersecurity education and training exercise assistance as needed.

The Pennsylvania State Government and the Pennsylvania National Guard working together in this regard set a precedent for other states. Depending on its success, it’s possible that other states may consider implementing similar bills. However, it does raise an important question; Should the military have a heightened role in our nation's cyber security? Cybercrime is an overlooked systemic problem throughout our country. And, with the majority of attacks coming from Russia, China, and North Korea, it would be in the military's best interest for national security to have a role in protecting American citizens' private information.