States rely on National Guard cyber units

Governors in 27 states have called on the National Guard to help state and local agencies secure elections and combat ransomware.

Governors in 27 have states called on the National Guard to help state and local agencies with cyber incident response and remediation, cyber defense analysis, election security planning, threat assessment and interagency planning, according to a blog by think tank ThirdWay.

Since 2018, guard members have assisted with response to ransomware attacks on cities and school districts in 13 states and supported election security in 16. Just over half the 41 cases were in response to ransomware attacks, ThirdWay said,  and eight of the ransomware attacks targeted local government entities -- making local government the most targeted category of this study.

More than 3,900 soldiers and airmen make up the guard’s cyber force, serving in 59 Defense Department cyber units across 40 states. Although every state has its own National Guard, some state cyber response units cover multiple states.

In May, Reps. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced the National Guard Cybersecurity Support Act, which would give governors the ability to decide when and how to deploy their state’s guard units to respond to cybersecurity threats against critical government programs and information systems.

Currently, the guard’s cybersecurity teams support active-component military forces and are deployed through DOD. The lawmakers said their bill would cut red tape and strengthen the readiness and responsiveness of guard teams in states facing increasing cybersecurity on departments of motor vehicles, election boards and organizations that distribute critical state aid.

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