Oakland Press: Auto hacking bills pass during Cyber Security Awareness Month

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

It is becoming increasingly difficult to watch the news without hearing about the latest massive computer hack, whether the victim be a Fortune 500 company or a government entity.

State government computers face an increased number of cyber security threats. The state of Michigan blocks more than 650,000 cyber attacks daily.

On top of that, the state blocks 2.5 million web browser attacks, 5.2 million intrusions, 79.5 million network scams, and 179.5 million http-based attacks.

Because the state of Michigan realizes that it has a vital role in identifying, protecting and responding to cyber threats that may have significant impact on our individual and collective security and privacy, Gov. Rick Snyder has declared October 2016 as Cyber Security Awareness Month in Michigan.

Cyber Security Awareness Month seeks to increase the understanding of cyber threats and empower residents to be safer and more secure online.

Initiatives such as this and others have made our state a national leader in cyber security.

Programs such as Protect Mi Child help keep our kids safe while online. The initiative works to prevent, detect and respond to cyber threats, and regular simulated exercises help keep Michigan secure and at the forefront. Visit www.ProtectMiChild.com to learn more.

In addition to attacks on private and government computers, we are now vulnerable to cyberattacks to our cars and trucks. In 2015, security experts at Wired magazine remotely hacked into a 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s “Uconnect infotainment” system while the Jeep was being driven. Not only were the hackers able to control the interior features of the car, such as air conditioning, locks and the radio, but they disabled the SUV’s engine functions as well.

Computers now often control such vital operations as a car’s acceleration and braking. Cyberattacks on these systems threaten our security and safety. We must make sure we do all we can to protect our cars and trucks from such attacks, including updating the law to address these new crimes.

The Michigan Senate recently passed Senate Bills 927 and 928. SB 927, which I sponsored, would specify that it is a crime to damage a vehicle’s computer system or gain unauthorized control of a vehicle. SB 928, sponsored by Sen. Ken Horn, would provide sentencing guidelines for these crimes.

SBs 927 and 928 provide important tools that our state and local law enforcement and prosecutors can use immediately to punish bad actors. Other sanctions will be coming at the federal level and other deterrents through the efforts of the auto and technology industries. Passage of these bills can be a forerunner for those actions and can send a strong signal that the advancement of the technology will also be linked to strong public protection.

It’s important to note that the bills do not intend to penalize those engaged in innocent activities such as car maintenance or legitimate university or corporate research. The goal of the legislation is to take appropriate actions available to the state Legislature to provide public assurance of security. These bills will help in that regard and in the larger goal of advancing this important and useful technology.

Hacking into a vehicle’s computer information system poses a significant threat to the security and safety of the auto’s driver and to the safety of others. We must take this threat seriously and enact laws to help prevent these crimes.

To learn more about cyber security and to put that knowledge into practice in your home, vehicles, school, workplace or business, visit michigan.gov/CyberSecurity and www.stopthinkconnect.org.

This column first appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Spinal Column: Follow basic safety tips to help ensure a fun and safe Halloween

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

At the end of the month, our streets will be filled with goblins, ghouls, ghosts and all manner of other characters both scary and delightful, as young people of all ages celebrate Halloween. Halloween is a fun and exciting way for children to dress up, use their imaginations and receive some sweet treats in return.

However, with our streets filled with costumed children, it is important to use caution to keep our kids safe. With that in mind, I offer some tips to help ensure that your family has a safe and Happy Halloween.

First, carving pumpkins can cause mild to serious injuries, so before your kids go trick-or-treating, make sure you closely supervise them when they carve their jack-o’-lanterns. Likewise, if your child is carrying a prop (such as a toy pitchfork) make sure that the tips are smooth and flexible enough not to cause injury.

Because many store-bought masks restrict vision, cut large eye-holes in masks when necessary. Make sure costumes do not restrict movement.

Small children should never go trick-or-treating by themselves. Make sure a responsible older sibling or adult is with young children at all times.

If older children head out without an adult, make sure they stick together as a group and only go to familiar neighborhoods. Tell children both young and old to stay in populated, well-lit areas and to use a sidewalk if available.

Attach a glow stick or reflective tape to your children’s costumes to make them more visible to drivers, and always carry a flashlight with fresh batteries.

Trick-or-treaters should never enter a stranger’s home, and they should never consume unwrapped food items or open beverages if offered.

Consider serving your kids a filling meal before trick-or-treating so they won’t be tempted to eat candy before they bring it home for you to check. Once your children arrive home, have an adult thoroughly inspect all candy.

Finally, teach your kids basic everyday safety, such as not getting into cars or talking to strangers, and to look both ways before crossing streets.

Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Halloween Safety page online for more safety tips, and view the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Halloween Food Safety Tips for Parents.

By following these safety precautions, we can help ensure a fun and safe holiday for our children.

Happy Halloween!

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Reminder: Kowall and Hopgood honoring Vietnam era veterans at Romulus event

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall and Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood on Wednesday reminded interested parties of a Vietnam veteran lapel-pinning ceremony this Saturday, Oct. 8 in commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the Vietnam War.

Kowall, R-White Lake, and Hopgood, D-Taylor, are hosting the “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Event to Thank and Honor Vietnam Veterans and Their Families” in Romulus to give long-overdue recognition to Vietnam War era veterans and their families. They encourage all interested residents and veterans to join them in paying tribute to the men and women who were too often forgotten when they returned home.

Kowall said the event, made possible in part by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8, at Romulus VFW Post 9568, 39270 W. Huron River Drive, in Romulus.

Those interested in attending should RVSP to past Post Commander Ron Allen at RCADDA@SBCGlobal.net.

The lawmakers will provide a Vietnam War Commemorative Lapel Pin to U.S. veterans who served on active duty at any time from Nov. 1, 1955 – May 15, 1975, regardless of location.

During the ceremony, Donna Rekuta will perform the national anthem and God Bless America, and Romulus VFW Post 9568 Honor Guard will present the colors. The Romulus Auxiliary will provide snacks.

Kowall has held numerous lapel-pinning ceremonies, both in Lansing and throughout the state. The ceremonies are held in a variety of locations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars/American Legion posts, veteran memorial parks and banquet halls. Kowall often partners with the senator of the district where the event is being held.

The Commemoration was authorized by Congress and established under the secretary of defense, then formally launched in 2012. It was designed to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families in hometown America, in light of the 50th anniversary of the war. Recognition is given to these heroes when commemorative partners, such as Kowall, hold events that thank and honor the veterans and their families.

More information regarding the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration can be found at www.vietnamwar50th.com.

Oakland Press: Michigan set to become center of driverless vehicle technology

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Laws are moving through the Legislature that are designed to keep Michigan at the cutting edge of automobile technology innovation, growth and design.

In early September, the Senate passed Senate Bills 995 – 998, the legislative package that would update our state’s autonomous vehicles law to provide safer transportation, better mobility and a stronger economy. The House is now poised to pass these measures as well.

These latest bills are necessary to keep Michigan at the forefront of the industry. In 2013, I sponsored legislation that became the current autonomous vehicles law in our state. Unfortunately, current law is becoming more outdated day by day as technology advances and other states seek the new automotive industry for themselves.

Michigan’s dominance in auto research and development is under attack from several states and countries who desire to supplant our leadership in transportation.

I will do everything I can to prevent that from happening. That is why I was the lead sponsor of SBs 995 – 998 back in May, the same week that Google announced that the company will be opening a self-driving test center in Novi.

Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Director Kirk Steudle testified at the Senate Committee on Economic Development and International Investment hearing in August in support of the legislation.

“For more than three decades, MDOT’s mission statement has remained the same: We strive to provide integrated transportation services for economic benefit and quality of life,” Steudle said. “Developing autonomous and connected vehicle technology is a big piece of economic development, and we are happy to support the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and private industry in their efforts to help Michigan remain a leader. Thanks to Senator Kowall for taking the lead on these bills, and to Chairman Horn for bringing them to a successful vote.”

Sen. Ken Horn, who chairs the committee, is the sponsor of SB 998.

“Michigan, for much of its history, has been known throughout the world as the home of the automobile, and it is only appropriate that we continue to be a pioneer in the industry,” said Horn, R-Frankenmuth. “Data shows that more than 90 percent of auto accidents are caused because of human error. If we can remain an integral part of the development of technology to reduce these errors, I think it will be a great move for our state.”

SBs 995 – 998 would update Michigan’s current laws regarding autonomous vehicle testing to allow “real world” testing and operation to determine the technology needed to safely introduce these vehicles into the marketplace.

The bills would also specify that as technology emerges, companies will be able to operate a driverless vehicle on public roads so long as an operator is able to supervise and control the vehicle. Liability provisions would ensure people are protected when they are acting in good faith with a manufacturer’s instructions when they service a vehicle, but not when they make unsafe or unauthorized modifications.

The legislation would establish standards that these vehicles must adhere to, and it would authorize the creation of the American Center for Mobility at the abandoned Willow Run facility. The repurposed 300-acre lot is expected to serve a vital role in Michigan’s research and development surrounding autonomous vehicles. The redevelopment is expected to be a boost for the economies of surrounding communities.

The legislative package strikes the proper balance between oversight and innovation. The role of government is first to protect the health, safety and welfare of the general public. With that in mind, we also must make room for the automotive and high-tech industries to grow at their own rate without being hobbled by government watching every move they make.

Gov. Rick Snyder is supportive of our efforts to support innovation in the industry. With SBs 995 – 998 now before the Michigan House, it is my hope that the bills are enacted into law by Jan. 1, 2017, before the start of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

That would send a strong signal that Michigan remains a viable, welcoming place for automotive companies and other high-tech industries.

This column first appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Kowall bill will bring transparency to Macomb County drainage board

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall on Monday announced he will be introducing a bill to bring transparency to the Macomb County drainage board.

“Under the drainage board’s current structure, the county executive of Macomb County cannot make appointments to the board and has no oversight of it,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “That is a bad arrangement.

“The Oakland County drainage board, by contrast, includes a member appointed by the county executive, subject to the approval of the county’s board of commissioners.”

Senate Bill 1117 would update the structural arrangement of the Macomb County drainage board so that it matches that of the Oakland County drainage board.

“Since the county executive of Oakland County is an elected position, accountable to the voters, having that person appoint a member to the county’s drainage board has helped ensure transparency,” Kowall said. “Residents have a right to know how and why the members of the drainage board are making their decisions.”

Kowall said the issue came to light after Macomb County Public Works Director Anthony Marrocco was interviewed by WXYZ-TV — and sent out pamphlets — stating that Oakland County was polluting the waters of Macomb Water.

The lawmaker said that without transparency on the Macomb County drainage board, there is no way to investigate any evidence, or lack thereof, for Marrocco’s comments. It is time to shine a light on the county’s practices, he said.

Sen. Rick Jones is a co-sponsor of SB 1117.

“No county government should have books that the people of the county can’t see,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “It’s time to open the books and be transparent.”

Kowall said that to achieve everyone’s goal of superior water quality, the proper governmental structure must be in place.

“There is a need for collaboration and for a regional approach to water issues,” he said. “An open county structure, such as Oakland County’s, encourages such cooperation.”

Kowall is the majority floor leader in the Michigan Senate. He has previously served as public safety director for White Lake Township in Oakland County.

SB 1117 will be officially enrolled when the Senate returns to session in mid-October.