Jun 23 2011

There's No Substitute for Peace of Mind

Ryan Petersen

Scan the latest headlines, and there's no shortage of alarming incidents of data breaches. As keepers of citizen-centric data, state and local governments simply cannot tolerate leaks. But highly publicized hacking horror stories have left many feeling shaken about cybersecurity.

It's better to be more cautious than overconfident, however, and this is especially true of IT security. Organizations must conduct proper security assessments on a regular basis. Typically best performed by an objective third party, a good assessment uncoversvulnerabilities and provides recommendations for resolving them.

For example, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles recently underwent a security audit with the help of CDW·G's services group before rolling out new portal applications.

"Security is a big issue because whatever risk there is, it is multiplied by our size. A minor risk to a smaller housing authority is a major risk for us," says Luis Yataco, the agency's assistant director of IT. "If something bad happens, we would hear about it. Our tenants are vocal. And we don't want to be on the news."

After the assessment team discovered problems with the portals and suggested remedies, the Housing Authority's staff discussed the findings with its software maker and obtained fixes. With the portal applications secure, the agency was able to roll out a landlord portal that more than 2,200 L.A. property owners use today. "We're happy the testing is over, and now we're enjoying the fruits of it," Yataco says.

Data loss prevention technology gives the public sector another way to further strengthen security. The Virginia 529 College Savings Plan, which boasts more than 2.1 million active accounts, enacted policies that prohibit workers from transmitting sensitive data through nonsecure means, such as over e-mail, FTP or HTTP, or storing it on portable devices, says Rosario Igharas, director of information security. Deploying DLP helps the college savings program ensure those policies are enforced.

Our feature story, "Keep Out: Private Property," details the security initiatives the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, the Virginia 529 College Savings Plan and other agencies are taking.

Client Computing

Client virtualization also affords stronger security, though organizations have found many other reasons to deploy it. Serving up virtual in­stances speeds provisioning, eases desktop management and reduces energy consumption, says Brandon Westberry, chief technology officer for the Georgia Coastal Regional Commission.

The CRC deployed Citrix Systems' XenDesktop client virtualization server with XenServer on the back end. About 20 users have virtual clients, though Westberry soon will expand the rollout. "We've cut the amount of time spent on PC-related help desk issues by more than half," he says, which frees up IT to spend time on other tasks, such as scrutinizing phone bills for savings opportunities.

To learn about the additional benefits Westberry and other IT leaders are achieving thanks to client virtualization, turn to "Efficiency Experts.

Cut the Cord

Utah's South Valley Water Reclamation Facility has turned to wireless networking to improve its operations. Workers must monitor more than 20 computers, called human machine interfaces, throughout the sprawling facility -- a task that can take up to three hours when making the rounds on golf carts.

But IT Director John Hunter knew there had to be a better way to accomplish the task, so his group decided to roll out an extensive Cisco wireless network that supports Voice over IP phones and allows operators to check plant conditions using tablet computers. To gain a glimpse of the ways in which Hunter and his peers in other government agencies have built out wireless infrastructure, turn to "Pushing the Boundaries."

Ryan Petersen, Editor in Chief