WASHINGTON — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Saturday that Oregon needs to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect public and private data from hackers.

At the nonpartisan National Governors Association’s winter meeting in Washington, D.C., Brown, who is the organization’s vice chair for homeland security and public safety, said that as more information is held in a digital form, states need to increase security procedures to protect personal information.

“I believe we have to build tools that the public can put their confidence in, even when they are doing something as simple as buying a fishing license,” said Brown. “And in Oregon, we like to buy fishing licenses.”

When she was Secretary of State, Brown oversaw one of the largest security breaches. Public data in the state campaign finance and business registry sites were hacked after the state expanded the ability to register information online. Brown said the incident informed her desire to create an agency to ensure that data will be better protected in the future.

This legislative session, Brown and Oregon Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit will push for the establishment of a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, a public-private partnership with Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Oregon State University.

Experts said that a comprehensive policy to prevent hacking is important for the state collection of personal data, but also for private corporations.

John P. Carlin, former assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division, said American businesses, especially those in the tech industry, are frequent targets for foreign hackers. He warned the governors that stopping hacking efforts, like the one on SolarWorld, a German solar panel manufacturer with American operations in Oregon, are going to be the responsibility of governors.

A division of the Chinese military was indicted by the DOJ for the hack.

“It’s reaching into the states where you have responsibility, even though much of it is occurring outside of your borders,” said Carlin.

NGA Chairman and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said governors need to let companies know that they take cybersecurity seriously.

“For our businesses, it’s important we send messages to companies that will recruit them to our states, and that we on the state level are doing everything we can to help provide them protections for their data,” said McAuliffe.

Data centers, like those for Apple and Facebook in Prineville, can be located anywhere. As tech giants look to expand their operations, the panelists said executives will look closely at the support their organization would receive from public officials.

McAuliffe said his state has already seen an economic boon from the expansion of cybersecurity businesses in his state, but Brown was optimistic Oregon would not be far behind.

“We’re really excited about getting some of those good paying jobs you got in Virginia,” said Brown.


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