Bill gives Missouri businesses $10 million in cybersecurity grants

Bill gives Missouri businesses $10 million in cybersecurity grants

February 10, 2022 0 By Joe Mueller

A bill providing $10 million in grants to Missouri businesses for enhancing cybersecurity will be educational and helpful for small businesses, according to testimony during a hearing Wednesday in the Special Committee on Homeland Security.

“We all know cybersecurity attacks happen all the time,” said Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg, sponsor of House Bill 2436. “You can read in the news about ransom (payments) on different businesses ranging anywhere from $25,000 to several million.”

The legislation requires the Department of Economic Development (DED) to administer one-time grants for businesses of all sizes. There’s no effective date or sunset date in the bill. Houx testified he didn’t know specifics about how DED will develop its grant selection process.

An equal number of grants will be awarded to employers with at least one but not more than 50 employees, 51 to 200 employees and employers with more than 200 employees. Cybersecurity plans will be submitted through a DED online application process. The grant will cover 90% of each approved plan’s cost, with the employer covering the remaining 10%. DED will only consider costs for:

  • hardware;
  • software, whether leased or purchased;
  • contracts for an external cybersecurity provider;
  • installation costs for cybersecurity;
  • costs related to increased square footage in the employer’s place of business;
  • employee training costs;
  • new employee salaries; and
  • existing employee salaries due to new cybersecurity duties.

Shawn King, a solutions architect with Dell Technologies and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Missouri National Guard, testified the bill would educate small business owners about online threats.

“When I see a bill like this come, I think how could a small business – with no clue on what cyber means – use this to understand cyber a little bit better,” King said. “The spirit of that is where I see this benefiting citizens. Some small businesses just can’t afford somebody to come in and do an evaluation of a network or somebody to show where they’re vulnerable. This bill gives those those small to medium businesses that ability to pay for something to help them increase their cyber posture.”

Rep. Bill Kidd, R-Buckner, stated his opposition to general revenue funds being used for the program.

“We’re taking $10 million to pay for private businesses to do something that seems to be their problem and not the government’s problem,” Kidd said.

Ryan Newlon, a cybersecurity principal with the National Rural Electrical Cooperatives Association, testified the grants would show Missourians the importance of enhancing cybersecurity.

“I don’t believe in the scare tactic approach,” Newlon said. “I believe in vigilance and getting ahead of it before it becomes too much of a problem. Right now, I don’t want to scare you, but I want to say that it’s time to stop taking the approach that cybersecurity would be a good thing to look at or should be considered.”

Rep. Bridget Walsh Moore, D-St. Louis, supported the legislation and stated online connectivity between all businesses and governments requires better digital barriers.

“This is like building a gate on the main path, but we don’t have a fence around the entire field,” Moore said. “The gate is then irrelevant. … If we don’t have the fence around it to back it up, it doesn’t matter.”

Kidd used the same analogy to question appropriating taxpayer funds for private business technology.

“I’m going to vote for the bill out of committee… but I’m still going to whine a little bit,” Kidd said. “If we use the logic … If have a lot and I don’t have a fence around it… if I get broken into and I call the police, (government) doesn’t buy me a security system and pay for my fence. … We’re not taking $10 million to buy fences and security systems.”

Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Defiance, said small businesses contributing taxes to Missouri’s general revenue would benefit from some assistance to improve information technology security.

“I firmly believe we need to start doing something, even if it has to come out of general revenue,” Hicks said. “Some of these small businesses throughout the state helped grow that general revenue. I think they deserve a little back.”

This article was originally posted on Bill gives Missouri businesses $10 million in cybersecurity grants