In February, the Georgia State Senate and House Rules Committee passed legislation, SB 346, that will prohibit the State of Georgia or any state agencies from contracting with any company owned or operated by the Chinese government. Led by State Senator Jeff Mullis and State Representative Martin Momtahan, the legislation is poised for consideration on the House floor.
The necessary and timely legislation advances as a new AP report reveals that the Chinese government broke into the computer networks of at least six state governments in the United States in the last year alone. According to the private cybersecurity firm that revealed the news, the suspected hackers are known for launching attacks for old-fashioned espionage purposes and for financial gain.
China Tech Threat (CTT) has been closely tracking the tech threat disconnect between the federal and state levels of government. Numerous agencies at the federal level along with the U.S. military have taken action to restrict the use of tech makers with ownership ties to the PRC due to the security risks they pose. Meanwhile, state policies don’t follow the same restrictions. This security gap leaves individuals, state agencies, infrastructure, and financial institutions vulnerable to intrusion by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
During a recent event on these very state vulnerabilities, CTT Co-founder Dr. Rolsyn Layton asked leading cybersecurity expert Joseph Steinberg about state vulnerabilities and the new reports on states being hacked by the Chinese government: “If we know that six states were breached by Chinese spies, it means we know 44 states probably have Chinese spies operating on their network that we don’t know about,” said Steinberg. “We are buying the stuff that’s going to create the problems for us,” he added.
Fortunately, these Georgia state leaders take the threat seriously and are already taking action. Specifically, SB 346 will require businesses submitting bids to the Georgia Department of Administrative Services to certify they are not owned or operated by the Chinese government. Submitting a false certification could result in a fine of up to $250,000. While introducing the bill before the Rules Committee, State Senator Mullis said, “Technology theft by the Chinese … is a threat.”