Tech Talk

The Cyberthreat to Government That's Lurking in the Shadows

Michael Roling, Missouri’s chief information security officer (CISO), knew that some of the state’s 40,000 employees were using unapproved software they had downloaded from the cloud to their work computers and devices. But when his team ran a special software tool to figure out how extensive the practice was, they were surprised to learn that more than 2,500 unknown software programs or services were operating throughout the state’s IT network. “It was definitely an eye-opener,” Roling says. “We guessed we had some problems, but it turned out the number was far greater than what we could imagine.”

Roling isn’t the only IT official to miscalculate the size and scope of the problem. CISOs routinely underestimate the number of unsanctioned software programs that workers are using. A report from SkyHigh Networks, a software security firm, found that the typical public-sector organization uses nearly 750 cloud services -- 10 times the number IT departments expect to find. READ MORE

Letting the Little Guy In: How Ohio Expanded Its IT Expertise

The state of Ohio wanted analytics. Demand from agencies had steadily increased for better ways to sift through large chunks of data, which could help public officials predict everything from the next crime wave or food poisoning outbreak to places where fraud might occur in a benefits program. The state had identified 14 different areas of government operations, from auditing to workforce programs, that could benefit from analytics.

But Ohio had an IT procurement problem. A lot of the really good analytic tools and the people who know how to build them weren’t bidding on government IT projects. What was the barrier that kept them from reaching city hall or the state Capitol? A clunky, complex procurement system.  READ MORE

One Way to Save Money, Reduce Fraud and Employ People Faster

During the height of the Great Recession, when 10 percent of workers were out of a job, unemployment insurance pumped $155 billion into the pockets of laid-off workers. Today, with unemployment at less than 5 percent, the state-administered systems that distribute such benefits receive less attention. Even so, they still pay out hefty sums in benefits -- $32.9 billion in 2016. They also pay out hefty sums improperly.

Unemployment insurance has one of the highest error rates among state benefits programs, worse than Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Rental Housing Assistance. In fiscal 2015, the program made $3.5 billion in improper payments, an error rate of 10.7 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. READ MORE

Can School Buses Close the Digital Gap?

Take an evening drive through some of the towns that make up the Coachella Valley Unified School District, a largely rural area near the Salton Sea in Riverside County, Calif., and you might be surprised to see yellow school buses parked in odd, uncharacteristic locations. But rest assured, they have a purpose. Equipped with Wi-Fi routers and solar panels, these buses provide Internet to the district’s most underserved communities.

Coachella is one of the poorest school districts in the country: Nearly 80 percent of its students live in poverty, which means many households can’t afford Internet access. That’s why Coachella’s school leaders have turned 100 buses along with several cars into mobile hot spots -- so students can do their homework. READ MORE

Are New York's Unprecedented Cyber-Regulations Necessary?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in September a first-in-the-nation regulation designed to protect the state from the growing threat of cyberattacks. The proposed rule targets the state’s financial services institutions, requiring banks and insurance companies to establish a cybersecurity program and designate a chief information security officer. 

The regulation comes on the heels of what has been a banner year for data breaches, with large-scale attacks occurring at government agencies, retail companies, tech firms and health-care service organizations. Barely a week after Cuomo introduced the regulation, Yahoo announced that data from at least 500 million user accounts had been stolen by a “state-sponsored actor.” Symantec, the Internet security firm, has similarly reported that 430 million new kinds of malware were detected in 2015, a 36 percent increase from the year before.  READ MORE

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