Alford: Cybersecurity a Burgeoning Issue

Hang around the process long enough and you’ll recognize the same phrases being parroted in each and every regular session of the Louisiana Legislature.

Reduce unfunded accrued liability. Protect the TOPS scholarship program. Save the coast. Cut taxes. Control spending. Mold a better health care delivery system. Be smart on crime.

Just to name a few.

There’s actually a fairly lengthy list of perennial policy issues in Baton Rouge. These topics surface annually, whether in actual legislation, non-binding resolutions or during debates.

But there’s a new subject worth keeping tabs on, a political issue that will sooner than later take its place alongside other recurring topics at the Capitol. For anyone who has a credit card or a Netflix account or a mobile banking app, it’s not an unfamiliar issue. For lawmakers and administrators, however, the threat is fresh and ever-evolving. 

Data breaches and hacker mischief from the past several years have sent state governments scrambling to improve security practices, to find money for insurance policies, to push sensitive information behind firewalls and to investigate computer crimes.

Louisiana is no exception. In fact, over the past year the state Office of Risk Management has purchased cyber insurance for 65 percent of the agencies and departments that it insures. The goal is to cover the rest within the next two years, according to Jacques Berry, the communications director for the Division of Administration.

A Pew Charitable Trusts report published three weeks ago found that 38 percent of all U.S. states have purchased cyber insurance since 2011. That figure is up from 20 percent just two years ago.

Louisiana started its coverage in early 2016. Berry said the "most sensitive" agencies and departments were folded into the coverage first. The initial cost to the state was $500,000 annually, but that price tag has been slowly growing as more policies have been added.

The insurance covers credit monitoring, legal fees and general liability. Each agency or department pays for the coverage out of their own budgets. So far, thankfully, most haven’t needed to use their policies. "We’ve had one claim, a minor one earlier this year regarding an [Office of Group Benefits] customer data breach by our pharmacy provider," Berry said. "Fewer than 100 OGB policyholders were affected."

In many ways, it’s just the beginning for Louisiana in its digital war. Just consider what’s happening nationally. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 42 states have introduced more than 240 bills or resolutions this calendar year related to cybersecurity. Of that count, 27 states have enacted legislation.

States have been treating the related policy proposals as public safety issues while trying to address concerns for both the government and the private sector. Connecticut has a new law that creates the crime of computer extortion. Delaware has new guidelines for safeguarding state-involved business transactions. Michigan is spending more money on “cyber security staffing.”

Back in Louisiana, the House and Senate approved a resolution earlier this year that charges the Division of Administration with studying the “current status of mission critical information technology systems.” A report to lawmakers is due by Feb. 1 and the division is expected to identify risks, costs, outdated operations, ineffective technologies and more.

Authored by Reps. Barry Ivey of Central and Ray Garofalo of Chalmette, the resolution frames the issue as a matter of public safety, like other states have done, and gives some jurisdiction over the report to the House and Senate select committees on homeland security.

Depending on the findings, and how much is able to be made public, the report could in some small way transform the 2018 regular session into a cybersecurity session. Which would be appropriate. After all, in addition to taking our tax dollars, our state government guards our Social Security numbers, banking details and credit card information.

There’s truly no time to spare, and the issue is just about as complex as it gets. As states try to figure out how to best tackle this beast, they’re also looking to the federal government for guidance. For example, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and the National Governors Association want the White House to streamline some of its regulations that they argue are hampering efforts on the state level.

As long as it doesn't lead to limited access to the internet experience as we know it, I think we can all agree that this issue deserves an annual seat at the policymaking table in Baton Rouge. Because the digital door has been kicked open, in our personal and professional lives, and in our government, and there’s no closing it now.

Sarah Gamard contributed reporting for this column.

SPONSORED: Working Together To Revive A 40-Year-Old Educational Program

Another win for Lafayette and UL Lafayette! After closing 40 years ago, UL Lafayette’s lab school is another step closer to being

WEEKLY: Senate Isn’t Only Chamber Facing Change

This story was originally published for Weekly subscribers on June 21, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community

WEEKLY: Know Your Congressional Districts

This story was originally published for Weekly subscribers on June 21, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community

Alford: A Memorandum From The Other Side

A MEMORANDUM FROM THE OTHER SIDE We hope this edition of The Tracker finds you rested and peaceful. If not, hurry and catch up. Because we

PolitiSigns, Adam Chapman & An Industry Update

Nothing declares election season is underway in Louisiana like campaign signs. And they're starting to sprout up everywhere, from country

Alford: Assumptions Are Dangerous In Governor’s Race

With 2018’s session-palooza out of the way (hopefully), Gov. John Bel Edwards can begin focusing on re-election. He’s not on the ballot

Q&A With Bob Livingston: “Republicans Are Going To Keep Control”

LaPolitics staff writer Mitch Rabalais: You were in the House leadership during Ken Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton. What is your take

Rabalais: Louisiana’s First Congresswoman

On October 16, 1972, the political orbits in both Louisiana and Washington, D.C. were shocked by the sudden disappearance of then-House


— Special Assistant to the Governor Micah Cormier (@micahjcormier): “@LouisianaGov and @Coach_EdOrgeron spent the afternoon together in NOLA

Gamard: Hellish Helsinki & What Your Congressmen Said

If you need a refresher: President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met behind closed doors in Helsinki, Finland to discuss


— Tuesday 07/17: Keith Courville and Anthony Sanchez — Wednesday 07/18: Rep. Tony Bacala, Margo DuBos and John DeSantis — Thursday 07/19:

Social Media & Dan Claitor

For our season finale of Hashtag Louisiana, LaPolitics staff writer Mitch Rabalais interviews Dan Claitor, Louisiana's state

PEAS IN A POD: Pastors & Politics

Gene Mills of the Louisiana Family Forum thinks a rather holy wave may be building for the 2019 election cycle. (Not only for the House and

LOWDOWN: The Price of Politics & Politicians

   What would you do for $16,800? Would you take a stressful, full-time job for $16,800 annually? Probably not. But guess who would? If you

SPONSORED: Louisiana Primary Care Association Announces Positive Step Forward In Healthcare

The Picard Group client Louisiana Primary Care Association (LPCA) recently announced an impressive step forward for healthcare in Louisiana.

POD: Politics According to Alton

He’s a staple of Capitol life and an influencer in Louisiana politics. He's lobbyist Alton Ashy of Advanced Strategies, and he's our guest

LOWDOWN: How A Podcast Gets Made

Here at LaPolitics, we like to use our videos and podcasts to teach you something you don’t already know. So in this week’s Lowdown, we’re

Ronnie, Riverboats & Re-Election Campaigns

His father pitched for The New York Yankees before gaining his political chops in Bunkie, Louisiana, just like his son did. So who is it

SPONSORED: Celebrating 25 Years Of Burkenroad Reports

Twenty-five years ago, Professor Peter Ricchiuti founded a unique learning opportunity for Tulane University graduate students that has not


LaPolitics: That final Finance vote in HB 1 was such a break from the session rhythm. Quick, unemotional and transactional. Was that

ALFORD: The Capitol’s Dirty Little Secret

The governor of Louisiana is not politically omnipotent. (I’m referring to the storied position of governor, not the man or the woman who

RABALAIS’ POLITICAL HISTORY: John Breaux’s Last-Minute Win Over Henson Moore

U.S. Sen. Russell B. Long’s announcement that he would retire after 36 years in the upper chamber was unexpected, as he had been building

PHOTO GALLERY: The Final Four Hours Of The Special Session That Never Was


“Members, It Is 12 a.m.”

It’s called a photo finish for a reason, not that the House, Senate and Edwards Administration would need photographic evidence to help sort

VIDEO: Who’s The Man Behind The Tree?

When politicians want your money, the idea is bound to come up. "Don't tax you. Don't tax me. Tax the man behind the tree." But who is