Florida is introducing tougher penalties for tampering with the state’s critical infrastructure

Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation that introduces new legal protections and imposes strict penalties for tampering, trespassing, unauthorized access and cyberattacks on Florida’s critical infrastructure, including power plants, water treatment plants and communications lines.

Government Ron DeSantis signed legislation Friday that introduces new legal protections for Florida’s critical infrastructure. The measure imposes penalties for tampering, trespassing, unauthorized access and cyberattacks on vital facilities and systems statewide.

The bill, House Bill 275, creates several new criminal offenses, including knowingly and intentionally improper tampering with critical infrastructure resulting in $200 or more in damages, or causing an interruption or impairment costing $200 or more in labor and supplies costs to repair. The crime is now also classified as a second-degree felony.

The law additionally makes unauthorized entry of critical infrastructure properties punishable by a third-degree misdemeanor for trespassing, with notice of entry provided. It includes penalties for unauthorized access to computer systems of critical infrastructure entities and for physically tampering with or introducing contaminants into these systems, both of which can result in third-degree or second-degree felony charges, depending on the nature of the crime.

“Due to the sheer number of critical infrastructure facilities, the difficulty in securing and monitoring such facilities, and the widespread impact that damage to such facilities can cause, critical infrastructure facilities have become a frequent target of both physical and cyber attacks in recent years. ‘, according to an analysis by the House of Representatives.

Critical infrastructure, as defined by law, includes power plants, chemical production and storage sites, natural gas facilities, communications towers, water treatment plants, seaports, airports, railroads, military bases and dams. The bill specifically addresses linear assets such as electricity distribution and transmission lines, gas pipelines and communications lines, which are often targets of vandalism and cyber attacks.

The legislation responds to an increasing number of incidents targeting critical infrastructure in recent years. According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), these resources are essential to national security, economic stability and public health. Physical and cyber attacks on such facilities can have widespread and debilitating consequences, as evidenced by recent break-ins at Duke Energy substations in central Florida and a shooting incident at a North Carolina substation that caused power outages and affected thousands of residents.

Florida law previously lacked specific provisions to address these types of crimes, relying instead on general penalties and misdemeanor statutes. HB 275 now fills this gap by providing a clear legal framework for prosecuting those who target critical infrastructure. The law also regulates civil liability for persons convicted of improper tampering with critical infrastructure, making them liable for three times the amount of actual damages or any claims paid by the owner or operator of the infrastructure for property damage, personal injury or wrongful death resulting from their actions. .