INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers are taking steps toward creating a team of civilian volunteers who would respond to cyberattacks on public entities.

House Bill 1266, which passed in the Indiana House with unanimous support, would create an advisory board to propose how the program should be run.

According to the bill’s author, State Rep. Christopher Judy (R-Fort Wayne), the group of volunteers could help state and local government agencies respond to and prevent cyberattacks. They’d also assist schools and utility companies.

“This is just putting someone out there to be able to address these issues where there’s not an expert out there to address those issues,” Judy said.

According to Judy, 14 other states, including Michigan and Ohio, have similar teams of volunteers right now.

“I think you could also look it [as] kind of a workforce development tool as well,” Judy said. “You have these individuals interested or already in the cybersecurity realm. We offer the education, that training.”

Two years ago, Indiana started requiring schools and government entities to report known cyberattacks to the state. Roughly 270 cyber incidents have been reported to the state since that law went into effect July 1, 2021, according to a spokesperson for the Indiana Office of Technology.

“Across the country, it’s all too common for agencies to still fall victim to the huge array of cyberattacks taking place every day,” said Scott Shackelford, executive director of the IU Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research.

They’re frequent targets because of the data and personal information they have, which could be sold on the dark web, Shackelford said.

He said he believes it’s going to require a team effort to reduce and respond to cyberattacks in the years to come.

“Thinking about what role can private entities play in partnership with the state to better protect Hoosier organizations and state agencies in particular,” Shackelford said.

Judy estimates the program would cost the state about $550,000 annually in the first two years to train the volunteers and hire state employees to oversee the initiative. 

The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration.