BOSTON, Mass. (State House News Service) – Flagging both potential economic development opportunities and ethical concerns, Senate President Stan Rosenberg said Thursday he is eyeing a new Senate task force to focus on cybersecurity issues.
“Everything is online now — I mean our credit, our banking, our health records — everything is electronically stored,” Rosenberg said on Boston Herald Radio. “And we have to be very concerned, and we have a responsibility in government to make sure we have solid policies around the maintenance of those records, but we also have to have, if you will, the quote law-enforcement aspect of it to make sure that the information is secure and that there’s no leaks.”
The idea of assigning a group of senators to work on cyber security issues was raised last summer by Sens. James Timilty and Michael Moore, Rosenberg said.
He said the state, with a strong high-tech sector, has many “business-oriented issues” to consider as the cybersecurity field grows.
“But then we also have to think about the ethics and we have to think about civil liberties and we have to think about making sure we know how to properly protect people’s information and when it should be shared and when it shouldn’t be shared and who should have access under what circumstances, so we’ve actually been discussing that,” Rosenberg said.
Throughout his first term as Senate president, Rosenberg displayed a preference for delegating major policymaking responsibilities to ad hoc groups of senators who operate outside of the formal committee structure.
A working group studying health care costs traveled to Minnesota in December and another, led by Sen. Sal DiDomenico, has been exploring early education access strategies. Rosenberg said earlier this month that DiDomenico will “soon” release a plan bourne out of the “Kids First” initiative.
A hack of the Democratic National Committee email system during the 2016 presidential election has recently kept the safety of online communications and data in the national political dialogue, and the issue of cybersecurity has also attracted attention on Beacon Hill.
Gov. Charlie Baker — who said in May that keeping data secure from hackers is one of several things he lies “awake at night worrying about” — led a trade mission to Israel last month that focused on cybersecurity and digital health.
At the August announcement of a $5 million grant to create a UMass Amherst Data Science/Cybersecurity Research and Education Collaborative, Rosenberg said a talk he heard from a cybersecurity official about data vulnerabilities at the Federal Reserve Bank earlier last year “scared the bejesus out of” the crowd.
Rosenberg said Thursday that he’s also had personal experiences with breached data, saying his credit card information had been compromised on two separate occasions.
“Happily, the banks have such strong systems that as soon as it happened they shut our accounts down and they issued us new cards, but boy, you wake up in the morning and you read that you just had the security of your bank account invaded by a hacker, and it gives you pause,” he said. “It really does.”
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