How Cities Lost Control of the Urban Tech Revolution

Local governments have found themselves increasingly struggling to manage the changes that alter the many aspects of urban life. For many years we have been promised that the marriage of technology and the city, the “smart city,” would revolutionize urban life. Major technology purveyors who hoped to sell enterprise-level solutions for things like managing water and sewer systems or automating transit operations backed the first major wave of smart cities.

This generation of smart cities was the product of companies that had a long history of focusing on client needs. But it turned out that there weren’t that many cities willing or able to purchase this kind of very expensive solution.

A second generation of American smart cities came in the form of the open-data movement. Governments at all levels decided to post their data online or even make it available in real time through application program interfaces allowing the public, software developers and others to use it for their own purposes. This form of smart cities had an immediate win with the advent of transit tracker apps that allowed people to know when the next bus would arrive. The downside of this advance was data that was poorly organized.

A third generation of American smart cities came in the form of the open-data movement. Governments at all levels decided to post their data online or even make it available in real time through application program interfaces allowing the public, software developers and others to use it for their own purposes.

A new generation of smart cities is using technology from the private sector that interfaces directly with the citizenry, bypassing the normal regulatory processes. The best known are Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb that have allowed the smartphone to become the way people interface with the city beyond the regulated sector. In these cases, the private sector is setting the costs and terms without involvement of governments.

The smart city revolution has arrived but it is controlled by the private sector, leaving government out of control of the urban tech revolution.

Summarized from governing.com

How Companies and Governments Can Advance Employee Education

Access to an extensive amount of data, from social media, online browsing, and an increasing number of mobile devices, make it feel as though things are moving faster every day. To gain and maintain an advantage, governments and businesses must increase their ability to react, transform, and improve.

Any governments can invest in advanced technologies but creating a workforce that’s ready to use them is a greater challenge. Success requires workers who can understand data, serve customers across virtual and physical interaction points, and keep up with changing software languages. A global survey of 4,300 managers and executives shows that 90% of workers feel the need to update their skills annually just to compete.

Three strategies are recommended to create a more educated workforce:

Upskilling is the practice of teaching employees how to use new tools and
practices that will help do their jobs better or faster and ensure that the
expertise is being put to the best use as new tools and technologies emerge.

Reskilling is a form of education focused on helping employees make career
transformations by learning new tools and practices to gain an ability to changes jobs entirely. This can be a significant cost saving when compared to the cost of severance, recruiting, and onboarding new employees.

Government Investments should focus on a multifaceted infrastructure for
lifelong learning and education.

Summarized from Harvard Business Review

How Technology Can Help Reduce The Power Imbalance Between The Government And The People

Technology platforms over the last several years have been crucial to holding powerful people and governments to account, an example being smartphone that give people instant access to filming capabilities that make it easier to document incidents of mistreatment and abuse.

Additionally, technology tools, particularly social media, are enabling societies across the globe to expand and demand civil rights. The world is now too interconnected, with technological advancements providing unprecedented access to information. In addition to utilizing this information keep governments in check, technology will continue to benefit the world’s poor by providing new access to necessary information.

This technology is not without flaws as social media has been used to promote election interference, hateful rhetoric, conspiracy theories, mob violence, online radicalization, and the spread of misinformation. It is incumbent on the world’s leading technology companies to increase regulation and explore alternative business models to avoid repeating the mistakes of early development.

Summarized from forbes.com

New cyber guidelines out for government contractors

Foreign countries are targeting and compromising U.S. contractors so frequently that the Department of Defense (DOD) requested that the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop custom security guidelines.

The result was 31 new recommendations for contractors to harden their defenses and protect unclassified but still sensitive government data including Social Security numbers and other personally identifying information.

Recommendations include implementing dual-authorization access controls for sensitive operations, employing networks segmentation where appropriate, deploying deception technologies, and employing threat-hunting teams and a security operations center to monitor system and network activity. Additionally, DOD has taken steps to beef up participation in information sharing programs and rolled out new cybersecurity standards for its contractor base.

These security guidelines are mandatory for approximately 65,000 primary and subcontractors who work with DOD. Implementing these guidelines can be an heavy financial burden but it is hoped that nonfederal organizations implement alternative, but equally effective security measures, using CMMC as a model.

Summarized from washingtontechnology.com

Why cybersecurity will impact everything in the new decade

Big Tech is embedded in every level of government as millions of citizens have become comfortable working online with local, state, and federal agencies. Information is rarely more than a few clicks away for both law-abiding citizens and anyone bent on breaking the law.

Up until now, government IT has been focused mainly on function: process automation, implementation, and establishing network policies. Now highly publicized data breaches, election vulnerabilities, and the social media influence on everything from currency to health care, have resulted in government IT professionals and cyber-savvy lawmakers to move forward with purpose and speed to better data protection.

The Defense Department’s security-first initiative and its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) requirements protect every mission and ensure security in every vendor along the supply chain. With the move to the cloud, mission-critical priorities must be certified for security due to supply-chain exposure and third-party vendor risk. Under CMMC, all contractors will be required to meet new standards before they can respond to RFPs or renew contracts.

The expectation is that similar initiatives will spread across all federal, state, and municipal agencies. This security-first mentality will become a national government inspired standard that will be in contrast to the slow trickle-up security of the past decade.

Summarized from gcn.com

Could Tightening Public Information Rules Slow Cyberattacks?

Portsmith, Virginia officials say that they are being attacked regularly by internet fraudsters and to guard their workplace, they want to make it harder to access public information. Emails, known as “phishing” appear to be from a trusted source and ask people to respond with sensitive information like account numbers of passwords.

To counter this practice, city officials have come up with a loose set of proposals to change the rules that regulate public access to government records. The changes would require people to provide a state ID when asking for data on more than five employees, allow government bodies to require written requests, and allow citizens who write government to opt out of having their “person identifiable information” released through public records requests.

Recent phishing examples include Washington where someone pretending to be a city vendor had staff wire $700,000 to their bank account and Baltimore where scammers shut down city computer systems at a taxpayer cost of $18.2 million.

Counter to this proposal are government watchdog agencies who contend that these policies will make it harder to hold public agencies accountable.

Summarized from govtech.com

Alarm in Texas as 23 towns hit by “coordinated” ransomware attack

Twenty-three Texas towns, the majority of which were smaller local governments, were struck by a “coordinated” ransomware attack.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software, often delivered by email, that locks up an organization’s systems until a ransom is paid or files are recovered by another means. In many cases, the ransomware significantly damages computer hardware and linked machinery and can lead to days or weeks with systems offline.

State and local agencies assisted with the response with the Texas governor deploying cybersecurity experts to affected areas to assess damages and bring the local entities online. It was determined that the attack was initiated by a single entity, though they could not determine who was responsible.

Summarized from cnbc.com

Is Blockchain Ready for Prime Time

Blockchain, the digital ledger technology, offers an immutable record of a transaction based on a distributed consensus algorithm. The technology gained notoriety through the use of bitcoin, the digital commodity.

Admittedly, the initial hype and confusion surrounding blockchain has been dramatic. Nonetheless, the current state of the technology is about employing the tool effectively, improving its interoperability, and pairing it with other advancing capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IOT).

Experts indicate that over time the focus is going to be more on managing blockchains and using it like one more essential back office tool to lower costs.

Blockchain offers expanding capabilities for secure transactions as it becomes more user friendly and ready for prime time as it creates “an immutable, unchangeable, permanently verifiable record of a transaction.”

The process involves endorsing parties participating in a transaction that is recorded digitally as a block or group of records. The block and data are then mathematically linked to other blocks.

The digital ledger ensures that users can only transact with the assets or information to which they have been assigned within the blockchain, and this compartmentalizes or limits their interaction.

Users do not have to be computer scientists to implement a blockchain application. Its use should be a well thought out decision based on whether or not the new technology can be applied to solve problems. It is also recommended that blockchain is used in parallel to existing systems until metrics prove the value of blockchain.

Summarized from afcea.org

Loss of Windows 7 Support Leads to $1M Upgrades for Maine

Maine has committed to spending more than $1 million on new software in light of Microsoft’s announcement that it will end support for Windows 7 in 2020.

The state has an established practice of replacing computers that are more than five years old. The problem facing the government is that after January 14, 2020 support for Windows 7 will come to an end, eliminating technical support, software updates, and security updates. The security patches are a crucial part of the operating system, forcing the state to upgrade 10,000 computers within the upcoming year.

Operational efficiency and security from ransomware attacks are the prime motivations for the move.

Summarized from GovTech.com

Three Steps Governments Can take to Guard Against Ransomware Attacks.

A federal cybersecurity agency and state government associations issued guidance on protecting city, county, and state governments from the growing threat of a ransomware attack.

The agency urged governments to take preventative action to protect their information technology systems from ransomware attacks that have cost municipalities millions in damage, ransom fees, and lost revenues.

They recommended three steps to improve resiliency against ransomware.

  • Regularly back-up all critical agency systems and store the back-ups offline.
  • Reinforce basic cybersecurity awareness among employees and remind them how to report incidents.
  • Revisit and refine cyber incident response plans and have a clear plan in place to address a cyberattack when it occurs.

A ransomware attack on Baltimore is expected to cost the city $18 million and two Florida cities recently paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom fees to recover their data. At least 170 city, county, or state governments have experienced a ransomware attack since 2013 according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Summarized from Nextgov