Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his 2017 State of the State addresses starting Jan. 9 will feature proposals to better protect New Yorkers against cyberattacks, including forming a “response team” when confidential information from state and local governments is breached.

Cuomo said Jan. 6 that New York faces an “ever-increasing threat” from cybercriminals out to violate the privacy or financial well-being of its residents.

“This proposal will give police and prosecutors the authority and the tools they need to bring cyber thieves to justice and protect New Yorkers,” the governor said in a statement.

Cuomo will begin delivering the first of six versions of his 2017 State of the State Address in Manhattan on Monday.

The new cybersecurity measures he is proposing include:

• Computer tampering. Cuomo said he will propose a graduated system of punishments for computer tampering crimes according to the amount of damage caused. A new class B-level felony will be introduced for those causing more than $1 million in damages by computer tampering, under the plan.

• Identity theft. The governor said he wants to update the identity theft statutes to introduce more severe punishments according to the numbers of identities that offenders steal. It would also impose harsher penalties for the theft of the identities of people identified as “vulnerable,” such as the elderly and mentally handicapped.

• A cyberincident response team. It would be assembled from computer-expert personnel in the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, the National Guard, the state Office of Information Technology Services and other agencies to aid all state agencies and authorities, local governments and others whose systems have been attacked by criminals and hackers.

Cuomo’s office said some of the proposals stem from recommendations by the state’s Cyber Security Advisory Board, which the governor created in 2013.

Ann Marie Cook, the co-chairwoman of the state Coalition on Elder Abuse, said older people have been targeted more and more frequently by cybercriminals and need enhanced protections.

“The theft destroys lives and threatens the financial security and stability of older adults,” Cook said in a statement.

As described in limited terms by Cuomo’s office Jan. 6, the governor’s cybercrime proposal sounds similar to a bill that was before each chamber of the state Legislature in recent years. In the 2016 session, the bill was A8149/S4072.

Versions of the measure were approved by the state Senate in both 2015 and 2016, but failed in the Assembly each year.

Like Cuomo’s plan, the Senate bill would have introduced a graduated system of harsher penalties for more severe instances of identity thefts, as well as more severe punishments for computer tampering.

The assembly sponsor, Codes Committee Chairman Joseph Lentol, welcomed word that the governor’s State of the State address will stress the need for more stringent anti-cybercrime measures.

“We couldn’t have a better template of time than right now for seeing how cybersecurity is so important when we can’t even safeguard the security of our presidential elections,” Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat, said in an interview Jan. 6, referring to allegations of Russian hacking. “It is obvious that we are living behind the times and we have to take measures to stop cyberthieves from interfering in our lives and in our computers and in our institutions.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement Jan. 6 that he has long supported the idea of punishing cybercrimes according to the severity of the offense, the number of people victimized and the financial damages caused by the offenses. He urged the legislature to adopt Cuomo’s proposals.

Joel Stashenko can be reached via email or on Twitter @JoelStashenko.