Pa. strengthens cybersecurity

Pennsylvania officials have launched an initiative to strengthen security

and privacy policies and practices by educating state employees, hiring

an ombudsman to oversee compliance and amending criminal codes to better

address cybercrime.

Gov. Mark Schweiker unveiled the initiative, PA Secure Online, Oct.

18. The governor's deputy press secretary, David La Torre, said it had been

in the works for some time and was not precipitated by the Sept. 11 terrorist

attacks.

"Actually, we were working on PA Secure Online well before 9/11, but

9/11 only increased the need for security online," he said. "We thought

it was important at this time that everyone was on the same page regarding

privacy and security policies."

By next spring, the state hopes to have an ombudsman in place, a position

akin to a chief privacy officer, he said. The ombudsman, who would be under

the auspices of the state Department of Information Technology, would reach

out to agencies and coordinate the education effort as well as ensure compliance

of state policies and federal restrictions on the use, storage and access

to data, he said.

The state will also create a "cyber academy" to better educate state

employees on detecting threats to cybersecurity and train investigators

techniques for apprehending hackers. He said the state would use experts

from within state government as well as from across the country to train

employees at workshops and seminars.

La Torre said the proposed ombudsman and cyber academy would not require

new legislation and would have minimal financial impact. But amending the

criminal code would require new laws to better clarify language in dealing

with such computer crimes as cyberstalking and hacking.

The state also wants to make sure that the law is clear on who has jurisdictional

authority on a cybercrime, an issue many states are grappling with, he said.

"We want to make sure everything is clear and concise so [authorities]

have a bead on the person who is committing the cybercrime," La Torre said.

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