StateTech Magazine - Technology Solutions That Drive Government en CITizen Q&A: Brennan Center Expert on the Election Security Challenges That Remain <p><em>Editor’s note: This is one of a series of Q&amp;As</em> StateTech <em>has conducted with state election officials and cybersecurity experts on election security. To read our Q&amp;A with Adam Clayton Powell III, the executive director of the University of Southern California’s Election Cybersecurity Initiative,</em> <a href="" target="_blank"><em>click here</em></a><em>. To read our Q&amp;A with Peter Threlkel, director of information services for the Oregon Secretary of State,</em> <a href="" target="_blank"><em>click here</em></a><em>. And to read our Q&amp;A with Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold,</em> <a href="" target="_blank"><em>click here</em></a><em>.</em></p> <p>In the last week of July, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency held a massive virtual tabletop exercise on election security to experience <a href="" target="_blank">what one participant described to StateScoop</a> as “an Armageddon-like situation in which every potential meltdown can happen.”</p> <p>The three-day exercise involved 37 states and approximately 2,100 total participants. CISA is confident that it, alongside state and local election officials, is taking the appropriate measures to safeguard the vote ahead of the general election on Nov. 3</p> <p>Yet worries abound. Voting by mail is set to surge. Some states, Michigan for example, are facing challenges simply delivering absentee ballots to registered voters before primary election day <a href="" target="_blank">due to U.S. Postal Service delays</a>. And Matthew Masterson, CISA’s senior cybersecurity adviser on election security, <a href="" target="_blank">tells NPR</a> that local election officials are still being too careless with password security leaving them susceptible to <a href="">phishing attacks</a>.</p> <p>With less than 100 days before the election, what are state and local agencies to do? The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law <a href="" target="_blank">has long advocated for measures</a> that could help protect elections, including banning wireless components in the voting systems that record and tabulate votes, robust post-election audits and backing up voter registration databases. <em>StateTech</em> recently spoke with <a href="" target="_blank">Lawrence Norden</a>, director of the Brennan Center’s election reform program, about the biggest remaining vulnerabilities and how to address them.</p> Phil Goldstein The Technology Needed to Help Agencies Rebound from a Crisis <p>As the coronavirus pandemic unfolded across the United States this spring, state government leaders used their <a href="">continuity of operations plans</a> and technology, such as rapidly <a href="">scaling up VPN resources</a> , to keep agencies and government services running. Georgia CIO Calvin Rhodes and other IT leaders anticipate that <a href="">state governments may need to return</a> to some form of lockdown, similar to what they experienced in March and April.</p> <p>Given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and its attendant effects on IT service delivery and the need to rapidly shift to remote work setups, it’s crucial that IT leaders plan a response should another acute moment of crisis hit.</p> <p>When that moment arrives, IT leaders and their staff will need to focus on putting out more fires and ensuring continuity of operations and service delivery for other elements of government.</p> <p>Government IT leaders must have the tools in place to guarantee clear and consistent communication, including dissemination of accurate information to all staff; a unified response that does not lead to more confusion; the ability to collect and respond to users’ concerns and questions in a timely manner; and consistent use of technology tools so that workflows are not siloed or fragmented.</p> <p>During the pandemic, CDW established <a href="" target="_blank">the Crisis Response Portal,</a> a solution built on the <a href="" target="_blank">ServiceNow platform</a>, to enable quick and easy access to accurate information for your team and other key stakeholders.</p> Nathan Coutinho The Power of the Next-Generation Work Center in Public Safety <p>As societies undergo dramatic transformation through technology, state and local agencies are discovering the power of data-driven decision-making. Whether their focus is on public safety, emergency management, terrorism, cybersecurity or transportation, agencies must marshal a continually evolving set of resources, deploy them as quickly and effectively as possible, and chart a course for optimal results.</p> <p>The challenge, of course, is that the richest decision-making resource — data — is dynamic and complex. To address that challenge, agencies are enhancing existing work centers such as emergency operations and fusion centers with next-generation technologies. These next-generation work centers (NGWCs) incorporate intelligent, responsive ecosystems that integrate multiple data streams into a single, cohesive picture, allowing users to assess a situation in real time and make decisions accordingly.</p> <p>NGWCs use data-rich endpoints, such as video surveillance cameras and connected sensors; visualization solutions, analytics software and situational awareness platforms that transform data into actionable insights; collaboration solutions that connect decision-makers, regardless of location; and supporting infrastructure, such as network, storage and compute solutions.</p> <p>In the enterprise, data is a powerful advantage as organizations pursue digital transformation. This is no less true for agencies — perhaps more so, given that public safety and well-being are at stake. Today, the extent to which agencies optimize data may be the single biggest determining factor in how quickly and effectively they can achieve the mission at hand.</p> Louisiana Launches ‘Smart Port’ Initiative in New Orleans <p>Louisiana struck a partnership with several entities to create a “smart port” initiative to use sensors and analytics technology to make more informed operational decisions at the Port of New Orleans and other ports.</p> <p>Under an <a href="" target="_blank">agreement announced</a> in July by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Economic Development agency (LED) will coordinate the initiative with the nonprofit <a href="" target="_blank">Water Institute of the Gulf</a> and the <a href="" target="_blank">Port of New Orleans</a>.</p> <p>In the project’s initial phase, the Water Institute will install data sensors on tugboats and other vessels navigating the port. Those sensors will be used to “detect sediment levels in shallow areas of the Mississippi River to promote safety and provide intelligence for future dredging decisions,” <a href="" target="_blank">according to a statement from LED</a>. The Port of New Orleans will provide $125,000 to the Water Institute to complete that work over two months.</p> <p>The second phase will “digitally connect container depots, road transporters, dock terminals, shipping lines, warehouses and cargo operators to seamlessly coordinate the port’s supply chain,” according to the statement.</p> Phil Goldstein How State IT Leaders Can Navigate a World Changed by the Coronavirus <p>In 2019, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers <a href="">conducted a survey</a> of state CIOs to identify the top policy and technology issues facing state governments. The survey found that cybersecurity and risk management, digital government and cloud services were top of mind for IT leaders. However, <a href="">the abrupt change in workforce norms</a> caused by the coronavirus pandemic forced them to revisit these top priorities as they worked to accommodate telework policies.</p> <p>Now, as state government agencies look to implement <a href="">long-term remote work strategies</a>, they must develop a cost-effective, secure and flexible IT infrastructure. To make this effort successful, IT leaders must take a cloud-smart approach, maximize their resources and invest in reliable technologies.</p> John Pellettiere St. Louis, DHS Test Tech in Bid to Benefit Smart Cities <p>Smart city deployments are often designed to be unique, tailored to meet the needs of each individual locale. This approach has obvious benefits in that solutions are deployed to help resolve specific problems for that city’s residents. However, the downside is that such solutions are often not easily replicated in cities with similar issues.</p> <p>The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate is aiming to change that via a technology pilot with St. Louis. The pilot was <a href="" target="_blank">first unveiled in August 2019</a>, and in January, DHS and the city <a href="" target="_blank">completed the final integration of the initiative</a>. The pilot was designed to evaluate SCIRA, the <a href="" target="_blank">Smart City Interoperability Reference Architecture</a>, which is “a framework to facilitate the integration and operability of disparate IT systems,” Norman Speicher, DHS’ SCIRA program manager, <a href="" target="_blank">said in a press release</a>.</p> <p>In early July, DHS announced the initial findings of the pilot, which tested different smart city capabilities around incident response and then created common standards to ensure rural cities can leverage those capabilities just as well as large, urban cities.</p> <p>“Through SCIRA’s findings, cities could have open, interoperable methods for incorporating technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) sensors into everyday public services and have unified standards across the spectrum of smart cities,” DHS notes.</p> Phil Goldstein Q&A: Colorado’s Jena Griswold on How to Get Ahead of Election Security Threats <p><em>Editor's note: This is one of a series of Q&amp;As </em>StateTech<em> has conducted with state election officials and cybersecurity experts on election security. To read our Q&amp;A with Adam Clayton Powell III, the executive director of the University of Southern California’s Election Cybersecurity Initiative, <a href="" target="_blank">click here</a>. And to read our Q&amp;A with Peter Threlkel, director of information services for the Oregon Secretary of State, <a href="" target="_blank">click here</a>. </em></p> <p>With under 100 days to go before the Nov. 3 general election, election security is being more heavily scrutinized as states and counties prepare for the vote.</p> <p>The possibility that a ransomware attack could cripple access to a voter registration database <a href="" target="_blank">remains a major concern among cybersecurity officials.</a> “A successful ransomware infection on the elections infrastructure could result in the irreversible encryption or possibly deletion of voter registration databases, vote tabulation or other sensitive records,” Tim Davis, an operations analyst with the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center, said during a recent event hosted by the National Association of Counties, according to StateScoop.</p> <p>State governments are also increasing their security efforts. On July 20, Colorado announced the <a href="" target="_blank">creation of a rapid-response cybersecurity team</a> that will help counties combat cyberattacks and disinformation. <em>StateTech</em> recently spoke with Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold on how her office is coordinating election security efforts and what she sees as the biggest threats.</p> Phil Goldstein How AI Can Help Government Agencies Respond to Disasters <p>State and local government agencies need to respond to <a href="" target="_blank">a wide array of natural disasters</a>, including (but not limited to) <a href="" target="_blank">floods</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">wildfires</a>. Now, they also have to contend with the ongoing fallout from a global pandemic.</p> <p>As they do so, they may be overlooking one of the most powerful tools in their toolbox, according to <a href="" target="_blank">a recent research report</a> from <a href="" target="_blank">Microsoft</a>: artificial intelligence. The report, released this month in conjunction with the nonprofit <a href="" target="_blank">Partnership for Public Service</a>, makes the case that disaster resilience is an area “ripe” for the use of AI technologies.</p> <p>“While some governments, companies and universities have already used AI in this field, most are still in the early stages of use,” the report notes. “However, AI technologies could contribute to disaster preparation and response better than any other technology or innovation in operation now. It could help identify risks, predict disasters earlier, and assess damage during and after an event. With people’s lives and livelihoods at stake, emergency responders need the most effective tools available for managing natural hazards and threats.”</p> <p>The report argues that AI tools can help state and local agencies predict the likelihood of future disasters, detect disasters earlier, identify risks to predict the impact of disasters and help assess damage after disasters strike.</p> Phil Goldstein Tennessee to Deploy New Smart Highway System <p>For several years, city and state governments have been deploying <a href="" target="_blank">a variety of smart roadway technologies</a> to improve safety and <a href="" target="_blank">ease traffic congestion</a>, as well as to build a foundation for connected vehicle technology, including <a href="" target="_blank">vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity</a>. In Tennessee, the state is aiming to do all of that. </p> <p>In June, the Tennessee Department of Transportation <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a> it had been awarded a $11.2 million federal <a href="" target="_blank">Infrastructure for Rebuilding America</a> grant. TDOT will match the grant with its own funds to deploy the I-40 Smart Fiber Project, which will expand Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technologies along Interstate 40 between Memphis and Nashville. </p> <p>The project is currently under development, with construction expected to begin in late 2021. Brad Freeze, TDOT’s traffic operations division director, says there are big goals for the initiative. </p> <p>The first is to save lives and improve safety on the I-40 corridor. The second is to create the foundation for autonomous vehicles. And third, by laying down 143 miles of fiber-optic cables, TDOT hopes to create the conditions to expand broadband in rural Tennessee. </p> <p>I-40 connects a great number of Tennessee counties, Freeze notes, and the corridor creates the possibility for future broadband partnerships, according to Freeze. </p> <p>Freeze says TDOT performed a return on investment analysis for the project and determined that for every $1 spent on it, the state would reap $7.50 in return. “That just speaks to the safety benefits and the innovation we will be able to deploy as a result of this project,” he says. </p> Phil Goldstein