Texas lawmakers getting serious about cybercrime

Texas lawmakers take on cyber attackers (PHOTO: Circa)

Texas lawmakers are taking on cyber attackers at the state Capitol. State Representative Giovanni Capriglione authored two bills that would establish a state task force and create harsher penalties for cybercrimes.

House Bill 8, The Texas Cybersecurity Act, would create a cyber sharing task force that would gather information about cyberattacks and look for loopholes criminals are using. It would also require state agencies to report when information has been compromised.

HB8 would also provide funding for state agencies to under-go training and continued education regarding the evolving tactics cyber criminals use. The law would require state agencies to contract with a third party to audit the agency’s security risks every 5 years.

HB8 would also look into election integrity and the vulnerabilities in election infrastructure.

House Bill 9 focuses on the criminal justice aspect of cyber crimes. Right now, Capriglione says the state is fighting 21st-century crimes with 20th century tools.

As it stands, using “Malware” and “Ransomware” is technically not a crime. HB9 would create both felony and misdemeanor offenses for those tactics and others like it.

“The crimes have been happening, but the ability for law enforcement to go after (the criminal) has been limited,” said Capriglione.

HB9 goes after the activity, not the technology, which Capriglione says will be a more lasting approach to addressing cybercrime.

Capriglione says the state has dealt with an average of 2.6 billion attempted cyberattacks per month.

“Those attacks are coming from out of state, out of country, and all over the world, and they are trying to get to your personal information,” said Capriglione.

Capriglione says attacks have not only become more sophisticated, but the consequences of them, on the state level, are more significant.

“Where maybe before these attacks were just simply to mess with you, they now have the ability to go and mess with flood control, dams, gates, and emergency systems, electricity and power providers,” said Capriglione.

At a Monday committee hearing, several people spoke in favor of both bills. Capriglione believes HB 8 and HB 9 are bipartisan bills, and he is confident they will make it onto the House and Senate floors.

The bills, per protocol were postponed for a vote next week.

Some tips to avoid becoming a victim of a cyberattack:

  • Change your passwords often.
  • Do not click any links you receive in an email. Criminals will go as far to get on your Facebook page and other social media accounts to learn about you, and pose as a friend or family member.