Several senators introduced legislation on Oct. 30 that aims to “strengthen local government cybersecurity defenses by switching to the .gov domain for websites and email addresses.”

Sponsoring the bill are several senators with strong homeland security profiles – Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., ranking member and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, respectively, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and James Lankford, Okla.

The legislation, dubbed the DOTGOV Online Trust in Government Act of 2019, would direct the Department of Homeland of Security (DHS) to provide resources and guidance to local governments that want to adopt .gov domains for both their websites and emails. Specifically, the legislation requires DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to develop an outreach strategy and resources to assist local governments. It also would lessen the financial burden on local governments looking to make the jump to .gov by making the transition an allowable expense under DHS’s Homeland Security Grant Program.

“When official government websites use the .gov domain instead of alternatives like .us or .com, it makes those government websites and email addresses more secure,” said Sen. Klobuchar in a statement. “Unfortunately, right now most county and local governments don’t use the .gov domain. This allows cybercriminals to more easily impersonate government officials in order to defraud the public and get people to share sensitive information.”

Chris DeRusha, the State of Michigan’s chief security officer, also weighed in on the legislation, saying, “I think it is great that additional emphasis is being placed on expanding use of the .gov domain to non-Federal agencies. Counties and localities have used .org or .com for convenience or branding purposes, but in the era of increased cyber attacks .gov can provide an extra layer of certainty – both for website and email.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.