Gov. Mike DeWine has signed a bill aimed at enhancing Ohio's resilience to cyberattacks, including those aimed at its election systems.
The measure signed Friday adds a chief information security officer at Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office who will work to enrich both state and county election security technology efforts.
The law gives LaRose, Ohio's elections chief, and Ohio National Guard additional power to improve responsiveness in the event of a cyberattack and requires county elections boards to conduct post-election audits. It also places LaRose on the Ohio Homeland Security Advisory Council.
The measure also creates the Ohio Cyber Reserve. This volunteer cyber force of trained, vetted civilians will report to the state Adjutant General's Department. They can be mobilized to help small governments affected by cyberattacks.
The state is now taking applications from civilians with internet and high tech security skills to join a special unit in the Ohio National Guard. The group of volunteers would be trained to handle potential cyberattacks infrastructure or businesses.
Members of the Ohio Cyber Reserve would be on standby, and would be granted leave from work and compensated if called into active duty.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose says the reserve can play a vital role in fighting potential threats to elections. As LaRose explains, if a foreign country mounted a physical attack on a local government, then the national guard would step in. He says the state should treat cyber-attacks in the same manner.
"In the virtual world we are now able to respond with the best protection that we have," LaRose says.
Several city and county governments have reported attacks by hackers demanding ransom, including Akron and Cleveland’s Hopkins International Airport. Businesses around the state have also reported ransomware attacks.